How many of us have ever bought something big like a new car, a house, or gone on a vacation? What did you do before you made the decision? I’ve heard people say that when making a big purchase, try making a pro’s and con’s list. That way if the pro’s out weigh the con’s then you know that your decision is a good one. Marika and mine’s biggest financial decision so far, has been to sell two cars we owned out right, so that we could purchase a new, more spacious one. It took a while to decide what car we were going to go with; I wanted a four door truck and she wanted a mini van. After we listed all the things we both wanted and didn’t want in a vehicle we decided to go with a compromise of small SUV, which, two years later led us to a mini van. But that’s beside the point; anyway, back to my story.
Looking at the pro’s and con’s of a decision, especially a decision that could change our lives forever, is really a great thing. In fact even Jesus tells us to make a pro’s and con’s list when deciding if we are going to follow him.
This happens in the book of Matthew chapter 16 starting in verse 21. Here’s a little background information on what’s going on so far in the text. Jesus just asked the disciples the question we all must answer, who do we think Jesus is? Peter, being the most outspoken of the group, tells Jesus that he believes him to be the long awaited Messiah. Which is exactly what Jesus was waiting to here from his followers; finally they got it and they understood who he was and his purpose.
But Jesus knows he has to clarify what the Messiah means to Peter and what Jesus’ purpose is and that’s where we pick up the story. Let’s read together.
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
There’s a lot that we could focus on in this text, but I want to focus on something that a lot of us have probably heard in church before. I want to focus on verse 24, where Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I want us to take a brief minute and focus on the cost of following Jesus. We might have heard this before, in order to follow Jesus we need to understand the cost to follow him, in other words, we need to make a pro’s and con’s list. In the passage Jesus tells us that we need to lose our life so we can gain it; he tells us that we need to take up our hardships (i.e., our cross) and follow him. Jesus tells us that we need to deny ourselves, and give up this world to gain everlasting life. Now we could spend a whole lot of time on this, and if you’ve attended a church worship time, you might have heard many sermons on knowing the cost of following Jesus and what that means, but have you ever thought of the inverse? Have you ever thought what is the cost of not following Jesus?
Now before we move on we need to clarify some terms, because I think in our society we throw around words that eventually become meaningless; terms like Christian and disciple.
Let’s first take the word Christian, the word means Christ-like, but did you know that Jesus never intended for his followers to be called Christians? Nowhere in Scripture do we see Jesus calling his disciples Christians, in fact it’s only mentioned three times in all of the Bible. Two of which are found in the book of Acts, in the context of a term used by non-believers to put down believers. Now I’m not saying the term Christian is bad or shouldn’t be used, but it has lost it’s meaning in our society and in someways in the Church. About 75% of people in the United States call themselves Christian, yet the direction our country is going and the people that we elect into power shows that there is a disconnect between with what people think the word Christian means and what it actually is.
So if the term Christian is becoming meaningless what term should we use? Well how about we use the term that Jesus used? In Matthew 28:19, Jesus uses the word disciple when describing his followers, but even that word might not mean much to us. So let’s go back to more of an original understanding of how Jesus described his followers. The word we translate as disciple, is the Greek word ma-th-et-es. Ma-th-et-es is derived from the word man-tha-no which means to learn by use and practice, to be in the habit of.
Jesus describes his followers as people that would not only learn his teachings but would use and practice and get in the habit of doing the things he taught them.
This idea of being a disciple takes on a whole knew meaning of needing to have Jesus’ words not just something we do when it’s convenient, but habits that we are working on daily. Studies show that in order to gain a good habit we have to work at it for at least 30 days in a row.
We need to be ma-th-et-es disciples, followers to have a habit to be like their God.
This brings us back to where we started, what is the cost of not being a ma-th-et-es disciple of Jesus.
Jesus and later on the Apostle Paul tells us a few things that we gain by being ma-th-et-es disciples. But let’s look at them in reverse, we won’t gain the abiding peace that Jesus prays for in John 14. We can’t love others like God does (John 3:14-17). We can’t have faith and trust in God for our needs (Matthew 6). We can’t have the power to do the right things (2nd Corinthians 813:7). And finally we will never be able to experience the overflowing life that Jesus tells us he brings (John 10:10).
But how then do we become more than Christians? How do we become ma-th-et-es disciples?
By becoming disciplined disciples, and that means to move beyond just filling are heads with the knowledge of the Bible and really begin to live it. This can be done by incorporating the disciplines of Scripture into our lives.
We might be asking what are the disciplines of Scripture? Have you ever prayed or read your Bible? Then you already have a basic introduction to what the disciplines of Scripture are. But there are far more than just prayer and reading. We are going to look at four disciplines that are used time and time again in Scripture that have helped countless followers of Jesus move from being a Christian to a ma-th-et-es disciple. We’ll move through these pretty quick.
The first discipline of Scripture is prayer. I know what you’re thinking, we already know this one, but what I’ve found is that a lot of us have an idea of prayer that is not exactly consistent with Scripture. In fact the way that Jesus talked with Father, prompted the disciples to ask how they should pray. And in Jesus’ answer we get a different approach to prayer.
The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 can be dissected into 5 parts: Worship, Our Needs, Forgiveness, Strength, Worship. Jesus gives a prayer that involves worship of God at the beginning, a quick request of the needs we have, but not our wants. Then a focus on forgiveness for both ourselves and the people around us; next focusing on the strength we need for life and finally if we read from the King James we’ll see Jesus ends with more worship. If our prayers were structured like this, our focus would be less on ourselves and more on God and the people he died for. How would our lives change if we actually put into practice praying the way God showed us how to pray?
The second discipline of Scripture is study and meditation. These are actually two separate disciplines, but for the sake of time and energy we’ll put them together to show the difference between the two so we can understand better what we do when reading our Bibles. The Bible uses two words when talking about reading the God’s Word. The words are meditate and study. Most of us know what study is, it’s reading the Bible for the facts, figures and straight content of what’s there. But meditation is a little harder for us to understand, because we usually carry the idea of eastern meditation where a person is sitting on the ground crossed legged saying “Om”. But biblical meditation is very different than eastern meditation. Eastern meditation focuses on getting ride of the bad stuff, but biblical meditation focuses on filling our minds and lives so full with the Word of God that it over flows in our life.That means when we sit down and study the Bible, we sit there a little longer and meditate on it, asking God, what does this mean for my life right here, right now? How can I use what I read today to bring me in a closer walk with God?
The third discipline of Scripture is fasting. Now this is one that we don’t really do, some of us in here might not have ever even attempted it; which is interesting because when talking about fasting Jesus said in Matthew 6:16, “When you fast...” It seems like Jesus was taking for granted that his disciples would fast, so why give it as command? Instead Jesus’ teaching on fasting focused more on the do’s and don’ts of fasting rather than on the command to fast. But what if we don’t know what fasting is? Well, there’s a simple answer: it’s making a conscious decision not to eat a meal and instead put in time for God. So in other words, not eating lunch but instead praying, or meditating on God’s Word. Now I’ve been asked by teenagers can I fast homework? And of course the answer is no, because fasting is confined to food, everything else is abstaining. So why’s fasting so important? Because we need food, it’s the fuel for our bodies. But by making a decision to focus on God and not food, we are disciplining ourselves to focus our lives more on him. Which means were focusing on him more than even the physical needs in our lives. Which will eventually move into other places of our lives, like money and possessions. When Satan brought the temptation of food to the fasting Jesus in Matthew 4:4, Jesus tells him that it’s not food that sustains life, but the Word of God. If Jesus is our example and we are his disciple then we need to get into the same mindset of Christ, and begin to fast. One meal every once in while is a step in the right direction.
That brings us to the final discipline of Scripture that we’ll talk about today which is worship. Let’s start off by saying music is not worship, it’s a form of worship. Paul calls worship a living sacrifice. It’s taking our dreams, our wants, our actions, family, friends, even our needs and telling God it’s all his. Worship through music is just one way we express giving ourselves over to God’s rule. Which is the goal of worship, God needs to be King of our lives so that we can live the life he created us to live. So worship is, giving God our time in service to both the Church and the community. Worship is giving up what we want to do for God’s wants. It’s giving up our money to be used for God’s plans, that’s one of the reason we say that as we worship with our offerings we will keep worshiping in song, because it’s all worship. And you know I’ve heard people say, “I’m not going to give my money because of this or that.” And if God is leading you not to give money that’s fine, but if he isn’t, we are in rebellion against God and our worship is tainted by that rebellion. In addition, worship needs some singing to go along with it. You know I didn’t sing during the music for the longest time because I wasn’t comfortable, but then I realized one day, my comfort has nothing to do with worshiping God. Worshiping God is all about God. My comfort is not his desire; God’s desire is for me to be a ma-th-et-es disciple and there’s got to be a lot of uncomfortable times for me to get there.
You know we can think we’re a Christian just like 75% of people in the US, but that doesn’t make us a disciple of Jesus. When we just think that we are Christians and we’re good to go, we will miss the life God has called us to and the cost of not being his disciple will far out weigh the cost to be one. When we hold onto our lives, Jesus says we are going to lose them. We need to release our lives into his hands and start living for him. That means we’ll have to be more disciplined in our lives by practicing those disciplines he has given to us in his Word. And it means that we will have to get away from being comfortable and start being uncomfortable for him.
We’ve talked about four disciplines that will help us be ma-th-et-es disciples, my challenge to you is that you put them into practice. That you work on making them habits in your life. That might mean you need to start and end your prayers worshiping God. That might mean meditating on his Word. You might need to skip a meal and pray instead. Or it might mean you need to open your mouth and sing a song or two. But if we really want to be truthful in our relationship with God and if we have the courage to give God control of our lives, then we must move beyond being a mere Christian and start being a ma-th-et-es disciple.