Tuesday, March 19, 2013



In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus shifts gears in His teaching style. He begins teaching by the use of short stories with a point. They are called parables.
He made this shift after the major rejection of Him and His message by the religious leadership. Jesus was riding high for a while. Those who were following Him believed their "candidate" for King and His Kingdom were going to win out. Now, they were hoping His Kingdom was going to put an end to the Roman domination. With this massive rejection of Jesus, His followers were concerned about the momentum of the Jesus movement being stifled. So, they were asking the question, "What will happen to the Kingdom now, with this rejection?"

By the use of 8 parables Jesus answers this question and gives them some sense of what the Kingdom is going to look like from now on. The heart of these parables that describe the Kingdom are the sower and the soils, the mustard seed and the leaven.

The sower and the soils demonstrate the primary activity of the Kingdom and that is the sowing of the seed. Jesus defines four different soil samples and gives a great visual to how the seed either becomes fruitful or not.

With the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, Jesus expresses how a small seed is able to grow into a large and strong bush. This will be the nature of the Kingdom's incredible, almost invisible growth. He explains how a woman can introduce a little bit of yeast or leaven into a large lump of dough and the entire lump is permeated. With this visual Jesus is showing how irreversible the growth of the Kingdom is.

Out of all 8 of the parables in this teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom, there really is only one activity. That activity is the sowing of the seed. So, what is the seed and who is doing the sowing?

In the 8th chapter of the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, "The seed is the word of God." In the Matthew 13 passage Jesus says, "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When people hear the message about the Kingdom." So far, Jesus is saying that the seed is the word of God and that word is equal to the message about the Kingdom.

In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus speaks about the sowing of the seed on the four soil samples: "The word is sown beside the road. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown." This passage reinforces the sowing of the word of God as the seed.

Now check out later in Matthew 13: Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom." Now note what Jesus does here. Jesus, the Son of Man, is the sower of the seed. AND, the seed stands for the people of the Kingdom-those who are the Kingdom kids-the followers of the King-the followers of Jesus!

Here's what I want to stress! The four ways of being and making disciples we have articulated over the last two sessions is all part of the sowing of the seed in the world. Jesus is the sower and the word of God-the message of the Kingdom-the people of the Kingdom-represent the seed that He is sowing into the world.

So, embracing the Jesus lifestyle, loving one another, meeting the needs of the needy and disenfranchised, and loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself all are part of the sowing activity in the Kingdom today.

The takeaway for me is this: DON'T SHARE OR EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL! Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth-the light of the world! And now Jesus is saying that you are the Good News He is sowing into this world. This is all part of the plan of you being in Jesus and Jesus being in you.

So, as you go and make disciples of all nations, be the Gospel wherever you go! Be Jesus as you touch the world around you! Can you think of anything more thrilling or meaningful than to be united with Jesus, the best Good News there is in such a bad news world?



To continue our thoughts contrasting and comparing evangelism and discipleship, I want to remind you that Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize anyone. Jesus makes it very clear that He only wants us to make disciples or make the people of all nations to become followers of Him.
Jesus gives us how to best be a disciple-maker. Jesus first wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. Then, your lifestyle of being a follower can be observed and shared most credibly. Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do so. These four ways not only grow those who have committed to following Jesus; they also most effectively show Jesus off to the nations of the world.

Let me summarize the first three we examined last session. First, Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself by developing the habit of walking with Jesus every day. Second, Jesus wants you to love one another-primarily other disciples-by developing the habit of walking with a few others who are following Jesus every day. And third, Jesus wants you to follow Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised-by developing the habit of waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. Remember, this is not evangelism as we have come to define it or proselyting in any way. This is discipleship the Jesus way!

The fourth foundational teaching of Jesus on how to be a disciple and make disciples may be the most important of the four I'm sharing with you. I've shared it before and you've certainly heard it before. My prayer is that this time around you might see it as a lifestyle you can embrace more diligently than ever!

Here's the problem. This teaching can't just be taught; it must be caught!
Jesus repeatedly taught what He had come to believe was the greatest commandment of all. Even when He was asked the question, "What is the greatest commandment?", Jesus answered this question very uniquely. He couldn't give just one commandment, but felt the need to share two-a kind of two in one!

On three occasions Jesus shared this same "greatest" commandment. Let's take a look at each one.

The first is in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 'There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied.

"You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

The second is in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

The third is in the 22nd chapter of Matthew: Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Here's how I see this teaching. Anyone anywhere can do this! I was haunted throughout my youth whether I could ever please God and do His will. If these teachings of Jesus had been reframed for me so that I could embrace them as a lifestyle, I think I would have bought into them. The will of God was always a mystery to me. In fact, as I began to work and speak at youth conferences, the most frequent question thrown at me was, "How can I know the will of God for my life?"

Jesus makes it so simple. Love God and love your neighbor and you'll be doing the will of God with great assurance!

In John's first letter, he wrote something very profound. He said, "God is love." Now, if God is love then when you love, you are acting like God-you are acting God out!

Do you want to show Jesus off? Do you want the God of gods to shine through your life? Make it your ultimate and daily purpose to practice two things: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself! A disciple of Jesus doesn't just talk about love. Jesus' disciples are lovers!



It was in graduate seminary that I had the privilege of working out so many Biblical issues. It wasn't in the classroom, but in the coffee shop that the real gems emerged. There was a group of 5 or 6 men who gathered nearly every day at the IHOP about two blocks away from school. Sometimes our discussions became so heated and interesting that we skipped chapel to continue "changing the world."
One of the early and frequent topics was to compare and contrast evangelism and discipleship. We viewed evangelism as the open door of converting a person and discipleship was the follow-up work after a person was converted. From time to time we swerved into the sub-topics of social evangelism versus friendship or aggressive evangelism. Social evangelism was basically doing good works for people-meeting their social needs, yet not expressly bringing Jesus into the interaction. We all were pretty much opposed to social evangelism.

What we settled on was either aggressive evangelism-initiating a straight up conversation about salvation-or friendship evangelism, which meant building a relationship with the person first and then sharing the Gospel with him.

I spent much of my spiritual life grappling with the issue of evangelism. For quite some time, I was filled with guilt over not sharing the Gospel enough or not having many results to my evangelistic efforts.

It was not until many years later that I discovered that Jesus never commanded His disciples to evangelize anyone. The two primary commands of Jesus that are relevant here are "make disciples of all nations" and "bear witness of me" or "you shall be witnesses of me" in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the remotest part of the world.

Because we have misunderstood this, we have come to embrace evangelism as a prominent teaching and practice that is expected of all followers of Jesus. And, the misunderstanding of evangelism goes further into wrong thinking.

Evangelism has come to mean to proselytize, which means to convert a person to another faith or religion. Jesus taught none of this! We are not to proselytize or attempt to convert anyone away from their culture or religious persuasion and into our culture or religious persuasion. Not only did Jesus NOT teach this; there is no way any one of us has the ability and power to truly convert a person's heart to follow after God.

When Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples (Jesus followers) of all nations, He meant exactly what He said-nothing less, nothing more. When Jesus commanded His disciples to "bear witness of Him" to the world (John 15) and to "be witnesses of Him", starting with Jerusalem and proceed to do this throughout the entire world (Acts 1), He was not urging any kind of conversion tactics. Instead, Jesus was urging them to introduce and encourage people from all nations to become followers of Jesus. You see, when a person is introduced to Jesus, then that person has the opportunity to be converted in his heart by the Spirit of Jesus-the only one in the conversion business!

So, if Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize, but only to make disciples or make followers of Jesus in all nations, how does this get done? Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do. We'll check out three of them today and then the fourth one we'll examine in our next session together.

The first is to be found in Jesus' early teaching in Matthew 5:13-16. He says: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Here Jesus says by embracing the lifestyle of Jesus-talking, walking, thinking and loving like Jesus, you will naturally attract the attention of the watching world and turn them toward a positive response to God. Your Jesus lifestyle will show up in a big and effective way!

The second way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in John 13:34-35, where Jesus says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Here Jesus is saying that your love for one another will make it crystal clear that you know and are being energized by Jesus.

The third way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in Matthew 25:31-46. He says, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.'"

Jesus makes it clear here that when you meet the needs of people around you, you are actually ministering and connecting with Jesus personally! Now that is powerful!

Jesus wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. More than anything else Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself, love others who are following Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised. By the way, this amounts to practicing the 3 habits we talk about so much: Walk with Jesus. Walk with others. Wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. That's not evangelism; that's discipleship the Jesus way!



Matthew 5:13-16
Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the salt-shaker and applied to the meat. Salt is the invisible presence of God. It must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving of purity, honesty and fairness.

NOTE that salt represents the inner quality-the being of the equation. Therefore, salt is the best tag to place on the first four beatitudes-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These snapshots are all about being, not doing. They describe your relationship with the Lord.

A saltless disciple is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Jesus uses the term tasteless. The original Greek word is MORAINO, which means to be foolish, to play the fool, insipid, dull, flat or deficient-literally to be a MORON.

In Rabbinic literature salt is associated with wisdom-a foolish disciple has no impact on his world. In a sense salt is a warning against being good for nothing. Also, salt adds flavor to things. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus and the Kingdom lend flavor to life to be a difference-maker. The world is changed by flavoring it with your salt-like presence. It's like a thermostat; you set the temperature.

It was Saint Francis who said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." This is precisely what it means to be salt. You are the salt of the earth.

Now for the second image-light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NOTE again Jesus says, "You ARE the light of the world!" Salt has a powerful invisible nature to it; light has more of the visible presence of God. Salt must be sensed-light must be seen! Light counteracts the darkness.

The visible presence of God consists of the energy of salt and the expression of light-IT MUST BE ATTRACTIVE AND AUTHENTIC! The core of this light can be found in loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are beyond the point where mere talk-no matter how sound-can make an impression. Demonstration is required. We must live what we talk, even in places where we cannot talk what we live. We stand again at Mt. Carmel (I K 18:20-40). THE TEST IS REALITY-AUTHENTICITY-THE GENUINE!

Whereas salt was a warning against being good for nothing, light is used to show us how to be good for something. It is the outer or doing side of these two images used by Jesus. Light is the best tag to be placed on the second four snapshots-merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker and rejoicing in persecution.

You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world; you are the invisible and visible presence of God on planet earth. Don't become tasteless as salt and don't dim out or cover up your light! Allow Jesus to be sensed and seen in you.

More than twenty years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number-one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.' Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how the Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Salt and Light.



A disciple-a learner and follower of Jesus-must make it his or her single-minded focus to be like Jesus as best he can. Simply put, see and hear what Jesus does and do it! In order to be a true follower or disciple of Jesus-to be like Jesus, it's important to understand the leadership style of Jesus. Once you understand this, you can follow Him more effectively. 

There are three basic dimensions to the leadership style of Jesus that are vital to embrace. FIRST-It's personal and powerful! Jesus was God in the flesh-the incarnational dimension of His leadership style. In the same way Jesus fleshed out the invisible God we are to flesh out or incarnate Jesus. We are essentially to be Jesus in all that we do. We do this by seeking to know Him better in all we do-including Jesus in every decision, every meeting and every relationship. We do this by practicing the presence of Jesus every day-walking, talking, thinking, loving and bleeding like Jesus. We miss the power in knowing Jesus, when we ignore His presence and avoid His pain. Remember Paul's words: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings."

SECOND-The leadership style of Jesus is relational and relevant! Jesus made it clear that there is no genuine relationship with Him without being in relationship with others. This is the leadership dimension of interdependence, connection and compassion. He demonstrated this relational dimension when He chose the first three disciples to be with Him-just to be with Him in relationship-in community. When you isolate yourself, you short-change yourself and others in the family of Jesus. When you embrace interdependence with Jesus and others, you exchange your life to know the power of God. You can actually experience His power in this community.

THIRD-The leadership style of Jesus is also underground and invisible! This is the secret dimension of Jesus' leadership style you are to follow that will generate real impact, accomplishment and creativity in the world around you. His ways are just not the normal ways of man. His own disciples in much of what He tried to do opposed him. They tried to push aside the woman who had a bleeding problem. They resisted the team of men who were lowering the lame man through the roof. They wanted to send the 5000 away for them to fend for themselves rather than feed them. They viewed the man born blind with a certain disregard. They had given up on any possibility of Jesus doing anything helpful for His friend Lazarus.

We resist Jesus as well, mostly by ignoring Him. We tend toward creating and producing the visible things; Jesus was and is totally into the invisible, under the radar, approach to serving others. This is real impact-really making a difference in the world around you.

To walk, talk, think, love and bleed like Jesus is the focus and goal of the disciple. Living your life in this way means that you will be a radical. "Radical" means getting to the root or operating from the basic fundamentals of life; it's following the principles that make life work best.

The key to being a disciple is learning and practicing how to be Jesus in everything you do and wherever you are. You see, Jesus doesn't want you to demonstrate for Him (that's the easy thing to do); He wants you to demonstrate Him as you walk like He walked, talk like He talked, think as He thought, love as He loved and even give yourself to sacrificially bleed as Jesus bled for the world. That is being a disciple of Jesus-doing the toughest thing you'll ever do in your life-to follow the teachings and principles of the irresistible and attractive Jesus.



Jesus made it clear what He expected His early followers to do. At the very end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Whatever else can be taught from this passage, it is important that you see what was on Jesus' heart in these last words for His followers. Jesus presents one command here; it's not an option. Jesus is making it clear that He wants His followers to make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all nations!

A disciple is literally a learner-one who listens and follows a teacher and his teachings. Jesus commands His disciples to go make disciples of all nations. "Nations" is best understood as cultures. We're realizing that no matter what culture is introduced to Jesus, the response is amazingly positive and transformational. And just as Jesus gave this command to His first disciples, it's clear that Jesus wants all of His disciples everywhere to continue to multiply more disciples.

Now, the term "disciple" is only used in the Gospels; it cannot be found in the rest of the New Testament. It's like the Gospels are filled with urging all to become disciples and the letters to the many fellowships of Jesus in the New Testament are filled with practicing what it means to be a disciple.

To me, a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus-one who hears His teachings and seeks to practice them. We are doing our best to be faithful disciples of Jesus and to obey Jesus by making disciples of Jesus everywhere we go. We see ourselves as followers of Jesus, not Christians or believers or Church members.

We say it this way among our friends: "We're trying to do the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. We're trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is discipleship-to know Jesus and to make Him known.
Over the next few weeks I want to open up what discipleship is all about. In order to get us started I want to make 8 observations on the elements of being a disciple. FIRST-Being a disciple is to have a teachable spirit and a heart for God. If you are a disciple, you will work hard on being a learner. You don't already have it all figured out. You are coming to Jesus as a little child.

SECOND-Being a disciple is to be holy-set apart unto God for His mission. When you are set apart in this way, you will be going against the grain-a contrarian, but you will be walking hand in hand with Jesus and that's the only way to get through the piles of life anyway.

THIRD-Being a disciple means to enhance your self-esteem. Knowing whose you are will determine who you are. When you understand clearly how centering and empowering it is to follow Jesus, He becomes the key to your self-esteem.

FOURTH-Being a disciple means to confirm your calling-your purpose in life. When you follow Jesus, you will know the reason why you are here on planet earth and have a great opportunity to act it out.

FIFTH-Being a disciple means to manage your conflicts. When following Jesus, your conflicts become opportunities for making a difference and learning more about yourself.

SIXTH-Being a disciple means to be able to express your personal faith. One of the great problems believers have is to be able to share their faith. All kinds of training materials and methodologies have been produced over the years, but there is nothing more effective in communicating your faith than being a follower of Jesus plus nothing. It's contagious!

SEVENTH-Being a disciple means to make disciples. If you are a disciple, then you will multiply yourself. You will make other disciples of Jesus as you live your life. You won't be able to stop it! Jesus will shine through!

EIGHTH-Being a disciple means to know Jesus better. Being a disciple is all about knowing Jesus. In fact, I'm convinced that this may be the only real goal for anything we ever do-in your home, in your vocation, on your vacation, as you parent your children and when you come together as a group of people in the name of Jesus.

Paul, who was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus, expresses how important knowing Jesus better really is: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

How can I know Jesus better? That's what I want to know! In the days ahead I want to encourage you to know Jesus better. Begin by being His disciple.