January 7, 2024
DNA is the code of life.
Your DNA defines who you are physically.
It not only defines who you are, but also tells where you are from (your lineage).
My DNA decides my eye color, gender, skin color, physical capabilities, and our ethnicity.
DNA tells us who the killer is in a CSI episode.
DNA is the center of the physical aspect of being human.
Being is important.
In our fast-paced world, where we are constantly doing, it is important to remember that we are human beings before we ever do anything.
Who we are, proceeds what we do.
As Christians we are born again with a spiritual DNA that tells us who we are (people redeemed by God) and who we belong to (Jesus Christ).
The New Testament uses this biological language to describe our new life in Christ.
Christians are born again (John 3:3;1 Peter 1:23).
In Christ we have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Jesus is the center of our DNA strand.
Everything comes from him.
One of the final things Jesus said to the disciples is called the Great Commission.
We are talking about our vision.
THE DNA OF OUR VISION HELPS US IMAGINE WHAT CAN BE IN THE FUTURE,
to visualize what a community that embodies our mission and values, which we will look at in the coming weeks, would look like.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In many churches when this passage is read, the primary focus is on the, “Therefore go,” and a lot of people miss the MAKE DISCIPLES.
Our Vision is based on the MAKE DISICIPLES.
Let me ask a question real quick, How many of you know our Vision Statement here at MACC?
TRANSFORMING PEOPLE TO CHRIST-LIKENESS.
This morning I want to attempt to answer four questions around the idea of Transforming People To Christ-likeness.
Question 1: WHAT IS A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST?
Many people today are confused about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and this is the root of serious problems in the church.
Some think a disciple is a person in full-time vocational ministry—such as a pastor, priest, or missionary—but not an ordinary believer.
Others believe a disciple is someone who has gone through a discipleship program.
Still others think a disciple is a Christian who has made an optional, higher level of commitment to Christ than the average believer.
The real question, however, is what the Bible says a disciple is.
The standard lexicon of New Testament Greek defines the word disciple as a “learner, pupil, adherent.”
With that basic definition in mind, let’s see how Jesus used this word to serve His purpose.
Professor Michael Wilkins says: “a disciple of Jesus is someone who has come to him for eternal life, claimed him as Savior and God, and has embarked upon the life of following him.”
In other words, a disciple of Jesus is not simply someone who has made a profession of faith, or even someone who has learned the teachings of Jesus (or the Bible), but someone who has come to repentance and faith and is seeking to follow His teaching and example.
Some people may think the definition given above far exceeds the definition of a basic Christian and that a disciple is after all a Christian who has made a higher level of commitment to Christ.
However, in the book of ACTS, believers in Jesus are typically referred to as disciples, twenty-eight times, in fact.
Only later did the Gentiles in Antioch give them the nickname “Christians” (Acts 11:26), which stuck.
But the two words were clearly synonyms.
To be a true Christian is, by definition, to be a disciple.
Following Jesus as a disciple is a process of learning to become more and more like Jesus Himself.
The heart of this process is learning and obeying the teachings of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What are some of the teachings in Jesus’ curriculum?
Things like self denial, wholehearted love for God, sacrificial love for neighbors, forgiveness of enemies, humility, being a servant, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, mission, and obedience; these are some of the major themes.
They are basic, foundational things that every disciple should learn about and begin to practice as early as possible in his or her Christian life.
So, that is essentially what a Disciple is, if you are a believer in Christ, you are a disciple.
So, now let’s look at the next question. Question 2: WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?
So, now we go from the noun, what is a disciple, to the verb, what is discipleship?
Being a disciple of Jesus and growing in Christ-likeness is a wonderfully blessed but very challenging journey through life.
This “ongoing process of growth as a disciple” is commonly referred to as discipleship.
Listen to how the apostle Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
And Paul calls believers to the same wholehearted surrender, commitment, and transformation as Jesus in Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Whatever language we use to describe it, we must wrestle with the fact that growing in Christ-likeness takes time and will have difficulties along the way.
In our “instant everything” culture, we periodically will need to remind ourselves and those we disciple that this process cannot be completed in a matter of weeks or even months; it is the work of a lifetime and will require patient perseverance.
I have been following and serving Jesus for 28 years and I still have a long way to go.
I know others of you who have been following Jesus twice as long as me and they admit that they still have a long ways to go.
This is the only journey that we will never complete in our life time.
With our American tendency toward individualism, we must also remember that it cannot be completed alone.
An individualistic, do-it-yourself faith or “solo Christianity” is guaranteed to fail.
That is why we must be an actively engaged member of a congregation of God’s people, where we have Christ-centered friends to walk with us and help us grow as disciples.
This need is what we call discipleship, which “implies the responsibility of disciples helping one another to grow as disciples.”
Discipleship is a ministry to which all believers are called in some fashion.
Here at MACC we believe so much so in this that we have hired Christina Farwell to be our discipleship minister…her responsibility is to be a resource to all our ministries and to all who attend here, helping each of us find the community that encourages our growth in our journey with Jesus.
This is our DNA, this is who we are and what we are about.
Question 3: AM I QUALIFIED TO MAKE DISCIPLES?
To make disciples, you must be a disciple yourself.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be a perfect disciple or a Bible scholar, only that you have a repentant faith, are committed to Jesus as Lord, and are seeking to follow Him in your daily walk.
You should have been a disciple for a while and be reasonably well grounded in Scripture and established in your spiritual life.
And you should also be humble enough to let your disciple know that you have your own struggles and aren’t perfect.
But, the Holy Spirit is the one in charge of all this and as the Spirit leads we must follow.
I know that there are brand new disciples, infants in the faith, who are more accomplished and more qualified than those who have been journeying for years and decades.
It reminds me of the fable of the turtle and the hare.
Some disciples have raced along and have decided to take a nap along their journey, they have become complacent about make disciples and are on cruise control.
Satan loves this.
While some, who are new to the faith, they are like Danika Patrick, they are ready to break all boundaries and sprint in to sharing their faith with others and seeing other come to know the Jesus they now know.
Which are you, are you napping or desperately sharing?
Questions 4 and 5 are the practical question, this is where the rubber meets the road:
Question 4: HOW DO WE MAKE DISCIPLES?
Jesus gave us clear, practical instructions.
If we follow them, we will find success.
He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).
What we have here is a main verb, make disciples, as an imperative that is amplified by three subordinate participles that share some of its force: going, baptizing, and teaching.
I know we are not in school and you probably don’t care about that, but it’s important that we are all on the same page with this and understand this appropriately.
Making disciples (learners, pupils, adherents) of Jesus is the focal point and begins with our:
Going is the initial stage in making disciples.
A literal rendering of the Greek text reads, “While you are going.”
On a practical level, this means that we must take initiative, that we must be intentional about going out to make disciples.
Since the first step in becoming a disciple is to repent of sin and to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we need to understand the gospel message and learn how to share it with others.
Many people find this idea unsettling, if not terrifying; but there is no need to be afraid if we are properly prepared.
Sometimes people confuse sharing the gospel with sharing their personal testimony.
But the two are very different.
Sharing one’s testimony is telling the story of how the gospel message brought you to salvation; it is not the gospel message itself.
The heart of the gospel is the good news and Paul sums it up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
The biggest obstacle in sharing the Gospel is with us—our “fear of men” and what people will think of us, the impact on our reputation in the community.
We need to resist this, ask God for increased courage, and step out in faith and obedience, trusting Him to teach, guide, and empower us.
In today’s world, sharing the gospel typically involves first building a relationship, and this takes time.
At some point, when the time seems right, you could share the gospel very naturally by weaving something like this into a conversation: “God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to pay for your sins on the cross so that you can have everlasting life. Then He gave proof that Jesus was the divine Savior of the world by raising Him from the dead.”
It is on the basis of this simple, powerful message that we invite men and women to repent of their sins and trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ for salvation.
You could make that invitation by saying something like this, “If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died to pay for your sins and are ready to turn to Him for salvation, just tell Him so in your own words and give yourself to Him.”
Some people try to make coming to Jesus some complicated and convoluted process.
Jesus said, “Come” that’s it, “come”
Will you come to Him today.
Listen, just a word of caution, we may never see the final outcome, but that does not mean our efforts have been in vain.
We are not responsible for the results; that is God’s work.
Our responsibility is simply to share the message as clearly and lovingly as we can in the power of the Holy Spirit, asking the Spirit to apply it in His own way and time.
Once we see that we have done all we can with a person in the evangelistic stage, we need to pray for God to bring the next witness into that person’s life to continue His work—to hand the person off, so to speak.
In our desire to see a response, we may become impatient for results.
But we are ill-advised to use pressure tactics or manipulation, no matter how well intended.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the heart and mind of a person; He alone can do it.
Once individuals have come to saving faith in Christ, the next step is to be baptized.
In baptism they are publicly forsaking the world and declaring their allegiance to Jesus and submission to His lordship and entrance into His kingdom.
In the New Testament, baptism was considered so important that converts were baptized immediately— even in the middle of the night, as with the Philippian jailer.
Your role with such people is to help them understand the importance of obeying Jesus’ command to be baptized.
An unbaptized disciple would have been unthinkable to the early church.
Yet today it is not uncommon to find people who have prayed to receive Christ and even attend church but have not been baptized.
This brief, one-time event is the doorway into the fellowship of the church.
Here at MACC if you want to be a member, then you must be an immersed believer in Jesus Christ, this is our DNA.
We should do all we can to encourage converts to be baptized as soon as practically possible.
Becoming a member of a healthy church, a community of disciples, is not optional; it is essential for spiritual survival and maturation.
The person who has repented of his or her sins, trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and been baptized has become a disciple of Jesus.
He or she is now in the school of discipleship—a follower, learner, and pupil of the Lord.
Accordingly, the disciple-making process now shifts to teaching the new disciple to understand and obey the teachings that Jesus taught His first disciples (Matt. 28:19).
This is the work of a lifetime.
To progress, the new Christian needs help from a more mature disciple.
How do we facilitate this learning process, and where do we find teaching material?
A vital key in the discipleship process is to build a trusting relationship.
Basic friendship is the goal.
This can be developed in any number of ways.
The best frontline teaching material is the Gospel of Matthew, which was designed as a manual of discipleship and has been used for that purpose throughout church history.
The Sermon on the Mount, the first of Matthew’s five teaching sections, is the specific place to begin.
The other three Gospels also contain important material not found in Matthew and provide valuable teaching. Good study guides are available for this purpose.
As you disciple people, remember that simply learning Jesus’ teachings doesn’t make one a disciple.
The true disciple obeys Jesus’ commands.
The teachings of Jesus can be learned in several ways, and you should encourage whoever you are discipling to engage with each.
The first priority is helping the disciple find and attend a church that teaches the Bible.
Next, encourage regular, private reading and study of the Bible, along with memorization and meditation.
Help them develop a regular practice of these important spiritual disciplines.
Disciples also need to connect with other disciples in their church community through Bible study groups and discussions where they can form friendships and benefit from the insights of others.
Getting plugged into such a group is vital.
Here at MACC we encourage all of you to attend our Education Hour, it’s at 9 on Sunday mornings as well as attending a LiFE Group.
These two opportunities are vital for your spiritual growth, and they are a part of our DNA here at MACC.
But our most important role is to serve as a spiritual mentor through personal discipling, meeting regularly to talk about following Jesus and all that it involves.
That one on one relationship is hard to beat, I know that there are several of these relationships going on here at MACC, but there is always a need for more.
Remember that this is not a purely cognitive endeavor. All study must be dependent on the Holy Spirit’s illumination, should engage the emotions where appropriate, and ultimately lead to obedience.
Throughout life, we all need the ministry of a spiritual mentor to encourage us along in the process of spiritual transformation—of being transformed into the image of Christ.
This is our DNA
So, finally question 5 is: Question 5: WHERE DO I START?
Some of you may be thinking, “How could I ever do this?”
I don’t have the training or ability.
That’s just Satan whispering in your ear to discourage you.
Remember Jesus’ first disciples were ordinary men with no special education or training other than knowing Him and learning from Him.
They had neither college degrees nor high school diplomas, but He used them to turn the world upside down.
And most of the discipling that has been done since Jesus’ day has been done by people like them.
Reading a few good books on discipleship can be helpful, but you don’t need a degree in religion or theology to disciple people effectively.
Here are some books I would recommend:
- Living for Christ in the Daily Grind by Arnold
- Growing True Disciples by Barna
- A Handbook for Christian Maturity by Bright
- Celebration of Discipline by Foster
- Radical Commitment: Getting Serious About Christian Growth by Grounds
- The Call by Os Guinness
- The Mentored Life by Houston
- The Practice of Prayer: A Guide for Beginners by Hubbard
- A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by Law
- Just Like Jesus by Lucado
- Wrestling Prayer by Ludy
- Organic Disciplemaking: Mentoring Other Into Spiritual Maturity and Leadership by McCallum and Lowery
- With Christ in the School of Prayer by Murray
- Transforming Discipleship by Ogden
- Discipleship of the Mind by Sire
- Pursuit of God by Towzer
- Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship by Wilkins
These are just a few books I have read in my discipleship journey and I can tell you that each of them is a remarkable book and will challenge any of us no matter where we are on our journey with Jesus.
The important thing is you need to know Him and His teachings, be filled with His Spirit, and be obedient.
As you step out in faith and obedience, you will ultimately learn by doing.
And the longer you do it, the more effective you will become.
One good way to start discipling is to be a small-group co-leader with a more experienced discipler.
That way you can be coached by someone.
Ultimately, the most important thing you need is provided by Jesus Himself.
He told His first disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
The promise of His presence (through the Holy Spirit) remains in full force for all who follow in their steps.
He will be with you and me every step of the way as we seek to do the work of making disciples, work we could never do in our own strength.
Folks this is the DNA of MACC and over the next 8 weeks I will share with you how we live this our in our mission and core values.
 Michael Wilkins, Following the Master (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 41.