Introduction to Discipleship

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Pastor Leroy: Well, hello folks, and welcome to your discipleship journey. We are so excited that you've taken what first is going to be the initial steps of truly discovering what it is to be a Christ follower.

Maybe you've been following Jesus Christ for a short period of time, or maybe even following Christ for decades. In any event, we want to make sure before we dive into this discipleship resource, that you truly understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. So why don't we take a listen to this first session here, and then when you start to go through the material, truly grasp what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But remember, first we need to make sure we have a great understanding of what it is to follow Jesus.

Pastor Jerry: Let me begin our time together with a confession. Here it is. I am no photographer. Now with the proliferation of apps, and every kind of technological gadget that we could have to make our pictures really cool, I still stink at it. But, I like seeing some types of photography.

In fact, I like seeing lots a different types of photography. But there's one in particular that always captures my attention, and it's called forced perspective photography. You've probably seen it. You may not know the the name of that, but you've seen it before. It's like when when your friends are in Paris, and the Eiffel Tower is way off in the distance. And then they put a hand into the foreground like this, and it looks like they're hand is holding the Eiffel Tower. It's forced perspective photography. I think it's kinda funny. You can do it with a whole bunch of different things.

Then, there's also this kind of photography where they, you know, kind of the run-of-the-mill name is "guess the pic photography". So you're looking at something that's really small, and really up close, but it's part of a bigger whole. For instance, I was looking at this picture and the idea was, what is it? And I thought to myself, I don't know what it is. And I'm looking at it, and it looks to me like it's some kind of of Roman shield. Maybe this ancient, cool, Roman shield. Well, really what it was was the kind of the tin aluminum top to a soda can, once you pulled that back and started seeing some the perspective.

The reason I begin this way, is because when we talk about this thing called discipleship, which is really what this this kind of training series is about, we need to make sure that when we talk about discipleship, we're asking the right questions, and we have the right perspective. And of all the questions we can ask, what I would ask us to do is to back up kind of as far as we could and maybe ask an overarching question, and then see where discipleship fits into that context.

And the big question for us would be this: what does God want? I mean, you can't ask much bigger a question than that. That is the singular big question that we all need to ask ourselves. What is it that God wants? Certainly we can answer that at an individual level, but we can actually answer that at a bigger level, too.

I would suggest you that when you begin opening the pages of the Scripture, what you find is you find that there is a God who is on a mission. He's on a mission for not only the creation of humanity and the creation of creation itself, but he's on a mission when humanity fails and sins and falls. To reclaim humanity. So after we begin reading in the book of Genesis, and we see the fall of humanity, we see God being the one who is on a mission to restore humanity back to himself. To be in relationship ultimately with God, because God has a purpose for his creation. And God has a purpose for those whom He has created, human beings, like us.

And so what God does is, he, in the book of Genesis, as the pages unfold, he enacts a covenant with a man named Abraham. An unlikely candidate. He's the son of a pagan idol maker. But God initiates this, because God is the one who was on mission. And with Abraham, he says to him, "I'm going to make out of you a nation that is going to be for my glory. And it's going to be a nation that declares my glory in the world." And of course for Abraham and his wife Sarah who were childless at the time, this seemed like something that was far-reaching. But God came through on his promise, and he created out of Abraham a people for himself. And obviously, after Abraham and those that came after him, kind of the patriarchs of our faith, you run into guys eventually like Moses, and you see the children of Israel that are caught up in bondage in Egypt, and then they're taken out of that bondage by Moses, and eventually led by Joshua into the Promised Land. And so God has a plan through his people Israel, as we begin to read the unfolding of how this happens in the revelation of scripture. God has a plan for those people to demonstrate His glory in the world.

In fact, when we start reading in places like the psalmist in Psalm 96, beginning in verse 3, it says, "Declare His glory among the nations, and his marvelous deeds among all peoples." And then in verse 10 of that same chapter, it says "Say among the nations, 'the Lord reigns.'"

So, there's obviously kind of an idea, as you begin to read the Psalms, that what God is doing, is he is calling his people toward something. And what he's calling them toward is to declare His glory, and declare his work among the world. That they are a people called out by God for the specific purpose. The prophets, as we begin to read further along in the revelation of the Hebrew Scriptures, they begin to tell us the same thing.

In fact, listen to the words of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 43, beginning in verse 11. He says, "I, even I, am the Lord, and apart for me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed-I am not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "that I am God."

And then in Isaiah chapter number 44, beginning in verse 8, it says, "Do not tremble, and do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this in foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one."

So, you can see with the Old Testament people of God, Israel, that he has a plan for them. And that plan is is that they are to be witnesses. But they kind of were on again and off again with that plan, as you read the Scripture. They were serving God faithfully, and then they were failing and serving idols and building idols. And it was up and down, and up and down for Israel.

Until of course, a faithful Israelite was born in a town called Bethlehem to a virgin teenage mother named Mary, and his name is Jesus. Jesus was the faithful Israelite that was a part of the plan of God all along. It was God with skin on who had come to rescue his people Israel. And as he came, he ended up teaching and preaching about the kingdom of God, and that God was on a mission to see a reclamation of the world to himself. And Jesus was even saying that this is through him.

Jesus made these statements. He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me". He said this in John chapter 14:6. And then ultimately, Jesus makes his way to a cross where he dies for the sinfulness of people, and he satisfies the justice of God. And then he rises from the dead. And when he reappears to some of the people, his disciples that had followed hard after him, he reappears to them after his resurrection.

And before his departure, where he's going to ascend back to the Father, he says these words in Acts chapter 1 verse number eight. He says "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses." Boy, the very same thing that was said of the Old Testament people of God, Israel, is now said about this brand new thing called Christians who make up the church in the New Testament. That you're going to be my witnesses.

You see if we're asking the question, what it is that God wants, and we begin to look at how the scripture answers that question. Ultimately, we arrive I think at this answer. What God wants is for every man, woman and child, to hear and to see and to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants.

Now, there's a there's a follow-up question that we need to ask when we ask the question "What is that the God wants?". And that question is this: what would it look like if God did what He wanted? I don't know if you've ever paused to think about that. If what God wants is for every man, woman and child to hear and see the Gospel Jesus Christ and what would it look like if God did what He wanted to do?

Well, I think maybe first, what it would look like is that there would be an accessible witness to Jesus in everyplace. So everywhere that there were followers of Christ there would be there would be created this accessible witness to Jesus. And the reason is this. Because whatever God is going to do in the world, he's going to do through all of Christ's people. That means you and me. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, then that means that we have a responsibility to help fulfill the mission of God in the world. God's desire is that every man, woman and child hear and see the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so if that's the case, whatever is going to do is going to do through all of His people. That means me and you are going to make accessible the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we are, wherever we find ourselves.

Now, this is the reason why discipleship is so important to us, and why it should be so important to you. The reason discipleship is important is because of how it fits into the big picture of the mission of God in the world. Because ultimately, what we're talking about when we're talking about being a disciple, is we're talking about someone who is daily following Jesus and compelling others to do the same. See, that's what it really means to ultimately be a disciple of Jesus. That every day we are choosing to follow hard after him, to imitate him, to honor him, to submit to his authority, and we're compelling or influencing others to do exactly the same thing.

You see, what discipleship is doing, when we become disciples, it is shaping our identity in Jesus, so that we can be involved in the ongoing activity of the mission of God. This is where discipleship fits perfectly into the bigger picture of the mission of God, and it's why we want to give distinct attention to this, in this series that we have prepared, this journey that we're on.

Let me say this to you as we begin. What we're doing here is not just building a curriculum so that we can have something that we can run through in a series of weeks and say "Hey I've checked it off. I've done some discipleship and now I'm through." Boy, you've missed it. This is a journey. If you think this is just a curriculum, you're missing it. Sure, it's some opportunity and a resource of teaching. But this is a journey that we're going to be on for a lifetime. Every day we'll choose to follow Jesus. And every day we want to influence and compel others to do the same. Because that's what this journey of discipleship looks like. And the reason it's important, is because it will shape our identity, so that we can be involved in the activity of the mission of God in the world.

In the way that our identity begins to get shaped, ultimately will begin with really developing an intimacy with God. A closeness, a deep connection with God, because that's when we will be transformed more into his likeness. And so, as we begin to unfold this session by session, that's where we'll begin. We'll begin by understanding and looking at how we can foster an intimacy with God so that we can look and act more like God's son Jesus Christ.

So, I'm really appreciative that you're beginning this journey with us, on this road of discipleship that we all, as believers in Jesus, are compelled to follow. And I'm hoping that as we come to the conclusion of this particular resource, that it will just be a launching pad for all of us to be faithfully walking out the journey of living our lives on mission with God, as faithful disciples in the truest sense of the word.

So thanks for taking this journey with us. And I know that you're gonna look forward to what God's gonna do in your life, as each of the segments unfolds and we begin to live them out, both now and in the years to come for God's own glory.

Pastor Leroy: Okay listen. There were three things that really jumped out at me in this session. One: that God's desire is that every man, woman and child would have repeated opportunities to see and hear and to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And number two: that Jesus himself said "And you will be my disciples." And three: that God wants you and me to join him on what's going to be the most important mission that he has. And again, that's that every man, woman and child would have repeated opportunities to see to hear and to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means we need to be his disciples. And did you get that definition that we had there? That the definition of a disciple is daily following Jesus and compelling others to do the same. Enjoy your discussion time.