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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:What it means to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus
Text:Matthew 10:24-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-12-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 133
Psalm 51:1,2
Psalm 25:1-4
Psalm 139:13
Psalm 146

Reading:  Matthew 10
Text:  Matthew 10:24-25
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Through the history of the church, there have been different understandings of what it means to be a Christian.  During the Middle Ages, for instance, for many people all it meant was being a spectator.  You went to church and watched what the priest did.  That made you a Christian.  For many today, being a Christian means being a consumer.  The faith gets treated as just another part of the consumer mentality that guides us in the mall or the grocery store.  You get what works for you, what works best for the best value, and leave the rest.

But as we look at the Word of God, we find something different.  The Scriptures present us with a number of different ways of thinking about what it means to be a Christian.  For instance, think of the three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king.  And then there’s also the central idea of discipleship.      

This morning, we want to consider what it means for us to be disciples of our Lord Jesus.  What does it look like to be a disciple in all the various aspects of our lives?  Are we taking our calling to be his disciples seriously?  In this morning’s sermon we’re looking carefully at Matthew 10:24-25.  Here our Lord indicates for us in a general way what discipleship is all about.  So, I proclaim to you God’s Word this morning:  What it means to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus

We’ll consider discipleship and its:

1.      Contours

2.      Challenges

3.      Courage

Jesus had the twelve disciples, his twelve close followers.  Here in Matthew 10, he sends them out on their first preaching and teaching mission.  They’ve been with him for some time, so they know what he’s about and what he’s been preaching and teaching.  Now they have their first opportunity to spread their wings and fly on their own. 

As they are about to do that, our Lord Jesus gives them a reality check.  They’re about to head out to a hostile environment.  Though they are going to the “lost sheep of Israel,” many of those sheep are not going to be receptive.  There will be people who will not welcome them.  There will be those who will hand them over to the local councils.  There will be those who will want to flog them in the synagogues and so on.  There will be hatred and animosity, even from family members.  In other words, our Saviour says, “Don’t expect a hero’s welcome out there.”

That’s the background to the words of our text.  Jesus says, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”  The word for ‘student’ is often translated as ‘disciple.’  Jesus reminds the twelve of their place with him.  He is their rabbi, their teacher.  He has been instructing them with his deeds, but most importantly, with his words.  They are his students or disciples.  They have been those sitting at his feet humbly listening and learning.  Parallel with that is the idea of Jesus being a master and them being servants.  The master is in control.  The servants are submissive.  The master speaks and the servants obey.  There is a clear line of authority in this relationship.

Then in verse 25, our Lord Jesus expands on this slightly.  He says that the students want to be like their teacher.  The disciples want to follow in the footsteps of their rabbi.  Similarly, a servant aspires to be like the master whom he looks up to.  This is really at the heart of what discipleship is all about.  It’s about likeness, similarity.  It’s about an aspiration, a vision of what we ought to look like.

Disciples want to be like their teacher.  In the days of Jesus, rabbis would gather followers.  Those followers would sit at the feet of their teacher and listen and try to learn.  They would go with their teacher just about everywhere and watch how he behaved, how he spoke, how he related to people.  They did this not out of curiosity, but because they loved and admired their teacher and they wanted to emulate him.  To be a disciple would mean to be a careful observer of the master or teacher.

The twelve with Jesus had the opportunity to be with him day after day.  They watched his every move and heard his every word.  There were a few times where Jesus was by himself or without the disciples, but these times were infrequent.  Most of the time, he had them close to his side.  So they knew what he was like and they knew what it was they were aspiring to. 

Things are different with us.  Our Lord Jesus is no longer present on this earth like he was in the days of the apostles.  We no longer have an opportunity to watch him and listen to him like the twelve did.  But we still have something to help us make a careful observation of him.  Of course, that’s the Bible.  Scripture reveals our Saviour to us and everything we need to know about him, also we everything we need to know to be his disciples.  So it’s the Bible that needs our diligent attention if we are to be disciples of our Lord Jesus.  To sit humbly at his feet today means to be focussed on his Word.

As we dedicate ourselves to the study of Scripture, we right away are reminded of the gospel.  We see that our Saviour did something for us that we cannot emulate.  He lived a perfect life of holiness.  Jesus went to the cross and paid for our sins.  These things we cannot do.  We have to look to Christ as the one who has done these things for us, these things that are impossible for us.  We see the great love of our Saviour.  We see his mercy and grace.  We fall at his feet with love in our hearts for him.  All the more we want to please him and follow him in the ways that we are able to.  We want to express our thanks to our Redeemer and live for his praise.  This gives the motivation to our discipleship.  Why should we want to be disciples?  Because we have been bought with the blood of Jesus!  Because we have been so deeply loved.  The master loves us and so we love him and want to follow his ways.

Those ways we want to follow in every area of our lives.  Being a disciple of our Lord Jesus is not just something for Sunday.  It’s not just something for when we’re with people from the church.  Discipleship is a something that encompasses the entirety of our lives.  His authority reaches everywhere.  Let’s just take one example to illustrate.  Does being a disciple of Christ affect how we approach the political realm?  Absolutely.  We need to reflect on what it means to be a disciple of Christ here too.  For instance, does it mean that we participate in elections?  Think about it.  As you read the gospels, do you see a Teacher who cared about the people around him?  I think we know the answer.  Shouldn’t we, his disciples, also care about the people of our nation or province or city and the direction that we go?  We clearly have a responsibility.  Then as we approach the voting booth, we again need to be thinking about our position as disciples of Christ.  How would he have us vote?  These are questions we need to be conscientious about as disciples of our Lord Jesus.  And again, this extends to every area of our lives, whether politics, recreation, entertainment, family, or education.  Everything needs to be considered in relation to our calling as disciples of our Saviour.                   

But being disciples will not be easy in any area.  It wasn’t in the days of the apostles either.  We’ve already heard of how our Lord Jesus warned them of the challenges they would inevitably face.  And as the disciples carried out their ministry they discovered the truth of what Jesus said.  People did hate them and persecute them.  This persecution often came from among the covenant people of God.  They hated Jesus and so they hated his disciples too. 

Jesus said at the end of verse 25 that it’s like a household.  He’s the head of the house.  Here again you see that he is in charge.  He says that they have called him, the head of the house, Beelzebub.  Beelzebub or Beelzeboul was a term for Satan.  This refers back to Matthew 9:34 where the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  Elsewhere in the gospels we read similar things.  It’s clear that the Pharisees and other religious leaders thought that Jesus was Satanic.  In their view, he was not the Son of God, but the prince of darkness.  They weren’t neutral about Jesus, but rabidly opposed to him.  And he’s the head of the household, he’s the teacher and master.

So what do you think they’re going to think about the members of his house?  What are they going to think of those who live with him?  What will they make of those who respect him and listen to his teachings?  Of course, if they hated him and opposed him, they’ll do the same with his disciples.  Don’t expect to win any popularity contests by being a disciple of Jesus. 

Christ was preparing them for the opposition that they’d face.  None of them should be surprised at the reaction to their ministry.  There were going to be challenges. 

Today those challenges are basically the same.  When you recognize the great depth of God’s grace for you in Christ and you want to live a life of love for him because of that, it’s not going to be easy.  People are going to put up all kinds of obstacles in your way.  Many people in the world will make it hard to be a disciple.  They will tempt you and try to pull you away from following your Master Jesus. 

But the worst thing is that some of the greatest challenges don’t come from the world.  Just like in the days of the apostles, some of the greatest challenges come from within, from the church.  This is nothing new.  It’s always been this way.  There is no golden period in church history to which we can point back and say, “Well, it sure was better then...”  The reality is that there have always been those in the church who don’t take the call to discipleship seriously.  But they don’t stop there.  It’s not enough for them personally just to ignore the radical nature of being a disciple of Christ.  No, they go a step further and make it hard for others in the church to be serious about being disciples of Christ.  They even try to turn them away from it.  This sometimes happens among young people.  A young brother or sister becomes serious about their commitment to Christ.  They want to talk about the Bible and about godly things with their peers. They want to discuss what it means to live a holy life and also put it into practice.  Then their friends, who are also church members, laugh at them and tell them to get real and stop being such a holy-roller.  That happens among the youth, but it can also happen among the older brothers and sisters too.  “Oh, come on, don’t be so serious.”  It’s the crab-pot syndrome.  If you boil a pot of crabs, if one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in.  If we’re going down, we’re all going down together.  No one gets out alive.  We expect that in the world, but how sad it is when it takes place in the church too.  What can we do about it?  We have to resist it vocally and loudly.  We also have to recognize that true Christian commitment and godliness is always an uphill battle.  And those who take discipleship seriously have to speak up and be counted when others are being maligned for the same.  We have to encourage one another and build one another up.  We can’t be satisfied with lowest common denominator discipleship in the church. 

Now if those challenges were there for the disciples in our text (and still there for us today), we can also be thankful for the encouragement our Saviour gives.  He gives courage to his disciples then and now.  That courage comes in the words “It is enough...”  When the twelve would face opposition, they would know that this was because of their association with Jesus.  He was the one who had sent them out with the message that the kingdom of heaven was near.  Yes, he and they were facing opposition.  But ultimately, because this was the kingdom of heaven, there could be confidence that this was a good and righteous cause.  Ultimately, Christ and his disciples would be vindicated.  Those who opposed them would be revealed to have been opposing God himself.  And so the disciples of Christ should content themselves to face what he faced.  They should find courage knowing that they are facing similar treatment as the Son of God faced.  Why?  Because then they know that they’re on the right side, on God’s side. 

And when we face opposition for wanting to be faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus, we can take courage from that too.  Even more so because we know the rest of the story from the New Testament.  We know that Christ died at the hands of his enemies.  But we know how God used that to crush the head of the serpent.  We also know that God vindicated him by raising him from the dead on the third day.  We know that he victoriously ascended into heaven.  We know of his promise to return to judge the living and the dead.  The cause of the Son of God is righteous and just.  Those who oppose him are opposing God.  Those who oppose his disciples as they seek to live truly as disciples according to his Word, those people too are opposing God himself.  They don’t hate us because of us, but because of him and because we are his.  And ultimately, we will be vindicated because of him and because we belong to him.  That truth gives us courage to continue as his disciples.  We’re not in a losing battle.  We have a victorious risen Saviour whose glory will be ours.

Being disciples of our Lord Jesus will never be easy.  But consider the alternative.  Being a slave of sin gives the appearance of something desirable.  It entices with promises of earthly pleasure.  But in the end, it is fleeting.  In the end, the way of the wicked is always hard.  Your sin will find you out and when it does it will consume you.  Not only that, but it will place you under the eternal wrath of a holy God.  Brothers and sisters, how infinitely better it is to look to Christ and be saved!  How much better it is to love him and want to follow him as one of his disciples.  To sit humbly at his feet to be taught by his Word.  Listen to what he says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  AMEN.     

Prayer:

Father in heaven,

The gospel delights us.  We’re glad to have a Saviour in Jesus Christ.  We’re also thankful that he is our Lord and Master, our Teacher.  We thank you for his easy yoke and his light burden.  We pray that you would help us all with your Spirit so that we would be faithful committed disciples.  Help us to humbly learn from your Word how to follow our Saviour in every area of our lives. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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