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The Fathers Love Letter To You
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Becoming Jesus


Becoming Jesusí Disciple #1

"The true believer"

I John 5:1-5

Introduction:

Some people have very strong beliefs. They become impassioned about their political convictions. They are willing to drive a truck into a building to prove a point even though it is an act of suicide. They are so devoted to their sports team that they wear the team colors come victory or defeat. They plaster stickers on the back windows and bumpers of their cars to announce loyalty to a particular music group. They are convinced that their doctor, prescription or homeopathic remedy is the sure cure. They are true believers.

True believers are different from those who are curious or on the fringe. They are really serious. Their belief centers and controls their lives. They are passionate about what they are convinced is true. They are willing to die for their cause.

Today I invite you to become a true believer in Jesus Christ. Radical. Committed. Absolute. Devoted. 100%.

The New Testament calls someone who is a true believer a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is a huge difference between a cultural Christian and a true disciple. A cultural Christian is someone who has grown up in the context of Christianityóthe person who celebrates Christmas and Easter, who knows some of the more famous Bible stories, who tries to live out basic Christian values, and may have been baptized and joined a church. By contrast, a disciple is someone whose whole life is centered in the person of Jesus Christóa follower of a person rather than a set of rules or values.

The true believer is fed up with ordinary living. She is tired of her own selfishness. He is weary of life without meaning or purpose. They want something more, much moreóthe true believer is ready to devote body, mind and soul completely to Jesus Christ the Son of God. The true believer isnít worried about the crowdóthis person is ready to be a disciple if no one else in the whole world agrees or comes along.

The true believer is convinced that there is no better way. In fact, there is no other way that will work. Being a disciple of Jesus is the smartest and best thing anyone ever can do. She knows that radical discipleship will completely transform her life for good. She knows that being a disciple will get her to heaven forever. But, it is neither the transformation nor heaven that motivates the true believer. He is attracted to Jesus himself far more than any benefits to be gained.

Anyone interested in being a disciple of Jesus must understand where discipleship begins. It begins with God. He is first. He is the leader.

I. Godís leadership

A. Love

God begins with love. Not because we are loveable but because God is such a lover. Love is at the central essence of who God is. I John 3:1 says, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us."

The love of God is lavish. It is not dependent on our attractiveness, our goodness or our accomplishments. God simply loves us for who we are.

One of the problems of celebrity and wealth is that it can be difficult to know why someone loves you. When someone becomes a famous athlete, movie star, musician, politician, business leader or person of great wealth there are many people who are attracted to you. They laugh at your jokes. They listen to your ideas. They want to be with you. They invite you to parties, to positions of leadership and influence. But, you may wonder if they really dislike you, merely tolerate you or even despise you in their minds. If it werenít for your money or position they would have nothing to do with you. If you lost your money, fell from fame or went to prisonóhow would they treat you then?

You need never worry about God. God is not impressed by success or repulsed by failure. He loves you just for you. Rich or poor. Failure or success. Beautiful or ugly. Healthy or sick. Young or old. God loves you. And, he loves you whether you love him back or not.

The love of God is a most unusual and wonderful thing.

B. Grace

So is Godís grace. James 1:5 teaches that "God . . . gives generously to all without finding fault." God is not only a lover but also a giver. He gives life, forgiveness, love, kindness, help, hope, and more.

One of the most frequent words in the New Testament is grace, which refers to the generosity of God. One of my favorite lines in the Bible in II Corinthians 8:9, that "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Thatís the way God is. He is willing to become poor to give to us. He loves to be generous.

Godís greatest generosity is called salvation. This is when he saves us from our sin to give us eternal life. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast."

Godís love for us is infinitely beyond our comprehension. But Godís grace toward us seems to be outrageous. God forgives when people donít deserve forgiveness. God repeatedly gives second and third and hundredth chances. God is kind to people who hate and abuse him. There are people against whom all of us would seek vengeance and evil but God is good and generous.

There have been times when I have been too embarrassed to ask God for help. Iíve sinned the same sin that Iíve confessed over and over again. Iíve treated others poorly. Iíve not prepared when I should have. Iíve squandered the blessings God has given to me. Iíve totally messed up. Iíve prayed and told God that I donít deserve his forgiveness, I donít deserve his help, I wouldnít blame him for giving up on me. Then it is as if I hear God say, "I havenít given up on you. I want to forgive you. I want to help you. I want what is best for you. I delight to be outrageously generous to you over and over again."

God goes first. God takes the initiative. God seeks us out. God loves us. God is outrageously gracious to us. God gives us Jesus.

C. Jesus

"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16).

Jesus was and is Godís Son. He is the embodiment of God. He is the means of our receiving Godís love and grace.

God the Father took the initiative to send Jesus to live on earth, die for us on the cross to take the penalty of our sin, and return to life to prove we have eternal life.

Jesus is our connection to God. Jesus is the channel for us to receive Godís love. Jesus is the means of Godís grace. Jesus is the one and only basis of our eternal salvation.

God has done all this. He has reached out to us. He has given us love, grace and Jesus. Next, it is our choice on how to respond. The obvious response is to say, "If thatís what youíll do for me, Iíll follow you anywhere." Those who respond to the leadership of God and want to follow are called disciples of Jesus Christ.

II. Our followership

A. Believing

Followership requires believing. To be a disciple means believing in Jesus Christ.

First and most obvious is believing the facts about Jesus. The simplest statement of facts to believe is in I Corinthians 15:3-4, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." But, thereís more to it than that. To be a disciple is to truly believe that Jesus is all the Bible teaches he is. He is supernatural. He is the only way to God. He can do anything.

True disciples always go beyond mental belief. True belief is about feelings and will. I donít just think my belief in Jesus, I feel it. Where there are not emotions there is no belief. When I believe in a surgeon, in a political party, in a financial decision---I feel it in ways I cannot intellectually describe.

Feelings are not contrary to intellect but they certainly are different.

Several years ago I talked with a man whose engagement was recently broken. They cancelled their wedding plans. When I asked him what happened he said, "It was logical for us to get married but we didnít feel anything for each other." Iím glad they broke up.

When I married Charleen I truly believed it was the smartest choice I could make. It made sense. But it was also a matter of the heart and will. I felt a passion and commitment to her that caused me to pledge the rest of my life to her no matter what.

Do you believe in Jesus? Are you convinced he is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead? Do you feel for him? Is there an emotional attachment, a passion, an attraction, a desire, and an indescribable connection of the heart? Do you choose for him? You want to follow him. You want to give your life to him. You want to belong to him.

Maybe you respond by thinking, "Iím not quite sure. I guess Iím more of a fringe believer, a partial believer, an almost-disciple." Well then let me ask youówould you like to be a true believer? Would you like to totally commit yourself to someone other than yourself? Would you like to believe so much, so big, so passionately, so completely that you become a fully committed disciple of Jesus?

Thatís the choice for each to make. To choose to believe in something and someone greater than ourselves. To go beyond reason and experience, to believe with all our being. It is called faith. Faith is an all-out total belief of everything we are and have.

B. Loving

Followership is believing but followership is also loving. Jesus called his disciples to the highest, greatest, most intense love when he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37).

To be a disciple is to love Jesus Christ. Love is beyond adequate definition but we all know what it means. To love is to believe in, but its more than that. Love is deep feelings, deep commitment, deep care and concern.

If someone you love is in a group photograph, he is the person you first look to see. If someone you love speaks, you are quick to listen. When you are away from the person you love, he/she keeps coming to your thoughts. When you love someone, that personís feelings, thoughts, touch, and presence are more important to you than anything else.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ I often say, "Jesus I love you." Sometimes those are my first conscious words in the morning. Words of love to Jesus are part of my daily prayers. When I hear others swear his name or speak unkindly about him I feel myself getting defensiveóbecause I love him. When I ignore him, displease him, hurt his feelings, I feel lousyóbecause I love him. What he says and thinks and feels is all-important to me because I love him.

A disciple loves Jesus. A disciple loves with heart and soul and mind.
Do you love Jesus like that? Would you like to love him that way?

I want to read to you a promise from the Bible, but something needs to be said first. When you truly love someone, you donít focus on what youíll get out of it. Parents donít love their babies with the expectation that they will take care of them when they are old. That may happen but thatís not the way true love works. When we love God we love God just for himself. We love him if everything goes right and we love him if everything goes wrong. We just love him.

But there is an astonishing benefit nonetheless. Romans 8:28 says, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God works for good in the lives of everyone who loves himówhat a spectacular promise and benefit!

C. Obeying

A disciple of Jesus Christ believes and loves and obeys. Jesus said in John 14:18, "If you love me you will obey what I command." I John 5:3 explains that, "This is love for God: to obey his commands."

To be a disciple of Jesus means that I truly follow him. I do what he wants. I go where he sends. Iím committed to doing things his way. As a disciple I choose to behave like Jesus whether I feel like it or not. I obey what Jesus says about prayer, forgiving others, sexual activity, helping the poor, managing money, treating other Christians, baptism, church involvement, and everything else.

If I donít do what Jesus says, Iím not Jesusí disciple.

The problem is that even the best of disciples donít always do what theyíre supposed to do. Does that mean that anyone who fails isnít a disciple? Isnít this too high a standard? Isnít it impossible to really be a Christian? In the same verse of I John 5:3 that tells us to obey Godís commands we are also told that Godís "commands are not burdensome."

How does this work? Letís listen to some of Jesusí last words in Matthew 28:19-20. "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

To be a disciple is to be taught to obey all Jesus says. A disciple is someone who commits to obey and then spends a lifetime learning what that means.

A disciple is committed to do whatever Jesus says about being baptized, although that person may not yet know what Jesus says about being baptized. A disciple is someone who promises in advance to handle money the way Jesus wants money to be handled, although it make take some learning to really know. A disciple is like a soldier who has pledged to obey every order of a superior officer when the battle begins but probably wonít know what those orders are until after the battle starts.

Conclusion:

Letís put it all together. God leads with his love, grace and Jesus. We follow with our belief, love, and obedience.

There are some days when I think I am a fully committed follower of Jesus.
I believe with my mind, emotions, and will. I love him with all my heart. I promise I will do whatever he asks me to do without hesitation or reservation.

There are other days when Iím not so sure. I have my doubts. Iím a lousy lover. I am prone to disobey.

Whatever I have or havenít been in the past, I choose to be Jesusí disciple today and forever. Will you join me in that commitment? Will you affirm your absolute belief in Jesus? Will you commit to love Jesus with all your heart, soul and mind? Will you promise to obey him completely? Over the next six weeks weíre going to explore what it means to be Jesusí discipleóbut it must begin with true belief and full commitment. What weíll learn about the Bible, prayer, church, service, giving and witnessing wonít matter if weíre not true believers.

I invite you to quietly bow your heads and close your eyes and talk to God.
®
Reflect briefly on whether or not you are a fully committed follower of Jesus and if you want to be.
® If you mean it, pray this short prayer: "God, I choose to be Jesusí disciple. 100%. Without reservation. I believe in Jesus as my Savior from sin. I love Jesus with my heart, soul, and mind. I will obey whatever you ask me to do. I promise this in Jesusí name. Amen."

"Lord God, you have heard the prayers of our hearts. You have promised good to all who love and follow you. Accept our commitment. Teach us what you want. Transform us. Let us see the miracles in our lives that come from being fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen."

January 20-21, 2001 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2001

ÔĽŅ

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