Dallas: Now, what I have said is that the form of the new life is discipleship to Christ and we need to spend some time on this topic—discipleship to Christ—and think rather deeply about what it means for us today.
The word “Christian” occurs only three times in the New Testament. It is introduced in Acts 11:26 to apply to disciples. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch because it was impossible any longer to regard them as a Jewish sect. They were not Jews any longer. They were Gentiles as well and we had to get a new name for them. They were called Christians. [00:51]
Two hundred and sixty nine times in the New Testament the word disciple or its derivatives—its close derivatives—are used. The New Testament is a book of disciples. The word disciple itself just means learner or student—just learner or student. And to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be someone who is learning from Him.
Now, it’s obvious that any time we are learning from someone, we are learning to be like them in a certain respect. If you are learning how to do fractions or how to speak Spanish or something, you are learning how to be like the person you are studying from in their abilities to speak Spanish of to do fractions. We always learn by becoming like someone. [2:01]
In the way of Christ, we are learning how to live fully in the Kingdom of God and the new person—the new being—which we aim to create in mission is precisely a being which has the principle properties of love, of humility, of a lack of fear and of power over evil.
Let me return to the theme of what salvation is in the New Testament just very briefly. I have said that salvation is much more than forgiveness of sins and we will never understand the concept of salvation which is an exceedingly comprehensive term in the New Testament unless we understand that in addition to forgiveness of sins is included the transformation of character into conformity with the likeness of Christ as well as significant power over evil by the individual and by the corporate body of Christ. [3:15]
My dear friends—where there is life, there is power. Where there is no power, there is no life. It is just that simple. There is no life without a power. Life is power. This is what I have tried to present to you. Spiritual power is that power which comes as we relate ourselves to God and to His Kingdom. And then the result of that is just precisely the kind of life, which I have sketched here under these three marks of—love, and humility, and lack of fear, and power over evil.
And when you read the Gospels and when you read the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, you will see that all of these things are constantly combined. I don’t want to downplay forgiveness of sins and I’ve already said that that’s where many of us initially meet our need is in the sense of guilt and evil that rests upon our back and which can only be lifted as we come to trust in the saving merits of Christ. That’s the only thing that will do it. [4:19]
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died” for the ungodly. (Romans 5:8) And when we see the depths to which God went to reach us, we can believe in His love in such a way that we can trust Him and receive from Him the forgiveness of our sins.
I often think He is much more ready to forgive us than we are to accept the forgiveness because He understand us and He knows the power of forgiveness in itself. He’s much more ready to do that than we are to accept it.
I think sometimes that we are loathe to accept forgiveness because we know as He taught that if we accept it, that will mean that it flows through us to others and we will have to forgive and what would we be without our grudges? And all of the things that hang upon us that the world would generally not know—many people’s whole lives are organized around their grudges and their resentments and their angers and who it is that did what to them. If you were to take that away, the structure of their lives would collapse like a house of cards. [5:27]
So, forgiveness is threatening. Think of what it would mean if forgiveness were to happen in this society? I mean, suppose that God, by an Almighty act, made it impossible for anyone to hold anything against anyone. The traffic would stop.
You see, forgiveness is such a powerful force and I don’t want to downplay that at all but I want to say, there is more. There is the transformation of character and there is the power over evil which comes into our lives as the spiritual life that comes from the Kingdom of God moves in and takes over evermore and drives out the fear and makes pride and the assertion of will, the pride of life in which we exalt ourselves over others makes it seem so pointless and silly, just like it really is, you see? [6:23]
It’s only when we look at Christ and we SEE HIM and we sense suddenly the utter silliness of things like that that we can let them drop off. You can’t very well beat pride by a frontal assault. Just like you can’t beat lust that way and you can’t beat fear that way. It is indirectly as we enter into the organic relationship with the Kingdom of God, which comes when that Kingdom seed has entered our hearts and begun to grow and exfoliate and bear fruit. Then, love flows form us like that river of water and humility makes our way clear and enables us to relate to people and get by all of the silly things, which establish barriers because I’m something you’re not. And then perfect love casts out fear and we walk fearlessly.
You know, psychologist tell us there are only two innate fears—fear of falling and fear of loud sounds but there are thousands of others, which we have learned to cultivate. It’s hard to find anything someone isn’t scared of and fear fills our lives.
You see, when Jesus was in that boat asleep and the storm was raging, He was not fearful so He slept. The others were fearful and they were screaming at Him but they did not have His faith because they were not integrated into the will and nature of God and God’s rule over His world in the way Jesus wants and when that comes, fear goes. [8:00]
You know, those early Christians—Paul and others that you can read about in later Christian history who despised fear of death were not just whistling in the dark. There’s that marvelous passage in which—Jim knows this material so much better than I, I hesitate to discuss it. It’s either St. Ignatius or Polecarp who talks about being the “wheat of God”—to be ground by the teeth of the animals, you know?
Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) “To die is gain.” You know, the Christian is the person who is better off dead. “To die is gain,” but it wouldn’t be that way if it weren’t for the sense of the reality of this Kingdom of God in which he lives and because of the reality of that, all fear is dispersed and then we grow in power, too. I am going to talk a great deal about that in subsequent messages. We grow in power as we learn to walk after Him and develop the character, which He has. [9:17]
I want to give you a simple statement, which we will develop some, especially in the last message that we have in this series and that is, there is a law of Physics that Isaac Newton discovered. The law is to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. See? That’s what makes jet planes fly and rockets go off and things of that sort. Before we can exercise the power of God, we have to have the substance in our lives to bear the opposite reaction and that’s why there is so much sorrow in cases that we know in the churches where God has let a little power come and there has not been the substance there to bear the opposite reaction and a simple thing like vanity comes into the life and suddenly you find people asserting themselves and lording it over other people and then disaster, you see. [10:15]
Equal and opposite reaction—we have to have the character, the substance to bear the power and God graciously prevents us in many cases where we would like to have power, we say to Him just as John and James said, “Oh yes, Lord, we can drink the cup which you are drinking. We can do it. Let us have the job. We can do it.” Well, they did it after a process.
They did drink the cup which He drank of but they had to grow a great deal before they were ready for it and it is as we follow Christ that we learn to exercise power over evil through the growth of our characters and I don’t want to speak individualistically. I mean the growth of our character together because the locust of power is in the body of Christ.
And the person who attempts to exercise the power of God in isolation is almost sure to be unable to do it. It will be destructive and just as we would not turn an infant child loose with a big automobile or a big gun or anything like that because they would not know what to do with the power, Jesus calls us to follow Him that we might learn how to bear power over evil—and how badly we need it—how badly we need to exercise the power over the evil that is around us. And we need to look at how Jesus did it and we need to learn the manner in which we work with the word of the Kingdom and the power of the Kingdom which is in that word in order to obliterate evil, to shut it down, to make is powerless, to draw it’s steam. And only so can we fulfill the function of mission in which Christ has sent us. [12:13]
Now, I want to talk about discipleship in a little more detail—the fullness of divine life, which makes mission inevitable; and I am putting it in that way because I am talking here about a stream of life and I know that we should be prepared to give and to go and to do. We should not simply sit and wait but on the other hand, I feel sometimes we “over do” the public relations a little bit too much and I sometimes think if we have to work that hard to let people know there is something here, maybe we ought to keep it quiet. I hope that’s not too stern and I’m not saying that we should not let, you know, let people know we are here and that we should not go.
On the other hand, one of the things that struck me early in my ministry as a young man was how much time Jesus spent trying to get away from people. You know?—how much time He spent trying to get away from people. You know, He says, “ . . . A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” A light is lit in order that it gives light. [13:27]
I would hate to have the job of hiding Pietermaritzburg. It’s not even on a hill. It would be a big job, wouldn’t it? Jesus is saying when God has lit our light, when we have entered into the appropriation of that divine system, which is our spiritual life, to hide us would be like trying to hide Pietermaritzburg or St. Louis or Cairo or whatever city comes to mind. Hmmm? Jesus could not be hid. He went on a little vacation up to Syrophenicia. He went to the Holiday Inn or something up there and tried to get away. The scripture says He could not be hid He could not be hid. We need to think about that, you see? [14:19]
We need to ask ourselves, “Is there not a way of growth, of discipleship to Him which would enable us to replace all of our efforts to be seen and use all of that energy in the activity of ministry.” I want to say to you that I believe there is. I believe there is a way of doing that and I believe that that’s what we are going to be talking about this week as Jim minsters and I do. We are going to be talking about those ways of growth, which will make us like a “city set on a hill which cannot be hid.”
Now, just to reiterate, it will not happen automatically. It is not something that will happen merely by grace. It will be gracious in its entirety. We will never merit any of it but we must rise up and seize it and I ask you this morning, if you are prepared to take the Kingdom of God by violence. If you are prepared to lay your hands upon it and go in, warts and all, sin and all, to the doctor who can cure these things and say now, “Give me your prescription. Dr. Jesus. Tell me how I should live. What will be the regiment? What will be the diet? What will be the exercise?” [15:41]
What is the exercise unto Godliness as Paul said to Timothy, the exercise unto godliness which will bring us to the point to where we will be “ . . . a city set on a hill that cannot be hid . . .” and will be seen of all men. (Matthew 5:14) You see the calling of the ancient nation of Israel was to be the light of the world, to show people how to live. They failed. They accomplished a lot and we must not be hard on them because you know, if we had to come all the way from where they came, we might not have made much better speed than they did.
They accomplished a lot and they are not done yet but that vocation passed as we are told in Matthew 21:43 [Dallas said Matthew 21:44, but it’s actually Matthew 21:43] the Kingdom of God is taken from you and given unto a people bearing the fruits thereof. That vocation of showing the world how to live has now passed to the church and I want to tell you in all sadness, but with all sobriety that the condition of the world finally comes to lay at the feet of the church; not at the feet of those who are not in the church. They don’t have the power. They are dead in trespasses and in sins. What you see in them, you should expect from them but you should not expect it from the church because the church is the one to whom Jesus said, “ . . . All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore . . .” and make disciples of every ethnic group. (Matthew 28:18 & 19) That’s I think the best translation of that phrase that is translated to “all nations”—every ethnic group—make disciples. Baptize them and teach them to do everything that I have commanded. Now, there are some very big words in there. All power; make disciples of every nation; teach them to do everything that “ . . . I have commanded and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) [17:41]
See, that’s our charter as a church. Our charter is to take the power of God—to let it dwell in us richly and from that matrix, go out to make disciples. What does that mean? That means to make people who are set upon becoming like Christ, because they see it as the greatest opportunity they will ever have and these are people who are not just minsters and teachers in the church, these are people who run the government. They are bankers, they are merchants; they are teachers in the schools. They are scientists and artists. These are the ones.
My heart longs for the day when we will understand that it is just a great a call on spirituality to be a banker as it is to be a minister and when we have seminaries for people who have the responsibility of directing the world in the world of art and writing and journalism and science; then we will have begun to understand that the distinction between the sacred and the secular is the devil’s lie. And we must never accept it and if we do accept it, we are for shortening our faith and poisoning it at the root and saying implicitly, “Well you know, those banks, that ‘s all the devil over there and you know that army; well, that’s the devil” and we give it all over to them and run into our little church and say, “Now, here’s God.” You see? That’s not faith in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is overall and He’s calling a people who can exercise the power of God with these characteristics. [19:17]
Now, I want to give you in three simple passages—very profound in the New Testament—but simple I think and I’ll try to make it as simple as possible; the there main marks of a disciple—who is the disciple of Christ?
First of all, Luke, the fourteenth chapter—in Luke 14, we find Jesus with a mass of people following Him and as I mentioned, He spent a lot of time trying to get away from people and verse 25 says, “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,”—in this case, instead of trying to get away from them, He is trying to get them to count the cost of following Him—“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and (his) mother, and (his) wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Verse 27—“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” And again in verse 33, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” [20:35]
Now, there are many things we could talk about here but before we get deeper into the meaning of these words, I want to say something very simple. Jesus is not saying here I won’t let you be my disciple. He’s saying you cannot be.
It’s as if I were teaching Algebra in a school and I were to say to a student, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, except thou canst do decimals, thou canst not do Algebra.” I’m not saying to them, “I won’t let you do Algebra,” I’m just telling them, “You can’t do it.” Or you might say to someone who runs marathons or lifts weights, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, unless you go through a certain regiment of practice, you cannot bench press 250 pounds or run in a marathon.” See? You are not saying, “I won’t let you.” You are just telling them the way it is; and unless one is sure that the most important thing in this world is to be with Christ and to follow Him—unless he is sure of that—he will fail as a disciple of Christ. He will not be able to do it. There will be something more important in his life and he will follow it. [21:51]
Jesus had just told in the previous verses a story about a man who made a great supper and he invited many and he sent his servants at suppertime, in verse 17, to invite those who were called “and they all with one consent began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:17) Oh, what a touching phrase.
But, you know there are many a folk in our churches and in our countries that are ready to make excuses for not following Jesus and all of those excuses come down to one sad thing—they have so misunderstood their life that they think there is something more important for them to do than to do whatever is necessary to become like Christ. And as long as a person thinks there is something more important to do than to do whatever is necessary to become like Christ, they cannot succeed in being His disciple. [22:38]
They will give up. They will turn away. They will fall off to the side. They will wisely learn that it wasn’t worth it after all and they will tell people that and they will be gone. It’s the person who has heard the message of the Kingdom of God, who has understood the richness of the life in that Kingdom and has set themselves clearly in view of what their life will amount to in that and they say longingly and lovingly, “I will take Jesus over everything.” Over everything.
I hope you won’t think for a moment that Jesus actually meant that it was a great advantage to you in following Him to hate your mother and your father and your wife. Some people read this and say, “Well, I’m halfway home. I already hate them.” [Laughter] But you see, you can do all of those things and not have it. What Jesus is saying here is simply the most important thing must be to be like Him—to follow Him and be like Him. [23:38]
The other figure that He uses in verse 27 is “ . . . whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” is a slightly different figure. And we must remember, that in those days the cross was a common instrument of death and it was a regular thing to see people carrying their cross out the gate of Jerusalem—outside to the hill there to be crucified. That was a regular thing and everyone knew that. What He is saying is when you get to the point to where you are—you have that cross on your shoulder and you are going out, you are carrying that cross out there to die on that hill, you are no longer worrying about what happened to your lost goat or why your wife burned the biscuits or what’s gong to happen if you can’t pay the bills. That’s all back of you, isn’t’ it? It’s all gone, you see. That’s not the upper most thing; that’s not what controls your life because that cross has cut you off from all of that. And Jesus is saying the desire of the disciple is above all to be like Him, to be with Him. That’s the first mark of the disciple and without it, it is impossible to succeed. [24:52]
The second mark of the disciple is in John 8. In John, chapter 8, verse 31—we read these words, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him . . .” And I want to point out again what I said earlier, that to believe on Him is not the end of the road. It is the beginning point. Those Jews that believe on Him, He said, “ . . . if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” If you continue in my word—now we are past the doorway of discipleship. We are past the commitment and now we are into the substance of the life of the disciple.
Who is this person who continues in His word? The person who continues in His word is not the one who engages in a non-stop Bible study. Continuing in His word is not a continuous study of the Bible. To continue in His word means to walk and live in the things He did and said—to walk and live in the things He did and the things He said. That’s what it is to continue in His word—to live it, to take it to the street and to the home and to the shop and to say, “Yes, here I will put it into practice.” To try and to fail and to say, “Why did I fail?” What went wrong? And to learn from the failure. [26:33]
You know, it’s so important to understand that we will fail. We will fail. You want to believe, dear friends that following Christ and living that life which is the city set on a hill is at least as difficult as playing the violin. Hmmm? You ever hear of anyone who played the violin who didn’t make a lot of awful noises in the process? Writing, as some of you may know, is a process of correcting your mistakes; that’s all it is.
You may not know much about baseball but in the United States, we have this fellow, Pete Rose. Pete Rose is one of the most unlikely athletes you ever saw. It’s not easy to describe exactly what he looks like but he doesn’t look like much of an athlete and the truth of the matter is, he will tell you that he isn’t greatly gifted and yet, Pete Rose is coming up on the all time total hits for a career in baseball back of Ty Cobb. And this stubby, grubby little fellow is just a miracle, you would think. Someone once asked him, “Pete, what makes you such a success?” And he said, “Other people practice the things they are good at; I practice the things I’m bad at.” Now, think about that. [27:51]
But, you see if we have a session of prayer and it doesn’t go right, we say, “Well, that just proves it. I can’t do that. And so I’ll give up on that for the next fifteen years.” Or we try to fast or we try solitude; we try to study and we say, “Well, nope, that didn’t work. So, good bye to that.” See! The spiritual life is one in which we grow by continuing in His word. We stick with it. Continuing in His word is the thing, which makes us disciples and I want to finish this first because it’s a verse, which is so widely misused.
You know, you go probably—I don’t know about the university here in Pietermaritzburg—but in so many universities around the world, you will find these words written, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” [28:49]
Now, I want to tell you folks; that is not true and it isn’t what Jesus said. The truth will not make you free. It will bring you into a bondage that can kill you if you don’t have some additional factors and the truth that has been discovered by human beings in this world has always been extremely dangerous because it is a power base to control and hurt others. And novels, like 1984 and whole literature that is generated to show the horrors of the world which we might be coming up on as dictators and rulers learn more and more about how to control people is nothing but an expression of the bondage in which truth without Christ brings you. [29:42]
“ . . . Continue in my word; then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31&32) Take it all together and it’s absolutely right but you see truth without the Son of God is bondage. We all know too much truth until we enter into Christ and the most important thing in this world is not to know the truth but to be related to Him and to be in His hand and even with our mistaken beliefs, often to proceed in confidence and faith in Him.
Truth can really turn you into an automaton, a legalist, a Pharisee. Only grace in the companionship of Christ followed out into a character, which is filled with grace and freedom and faith and love. That then makes truth something, which can make us free. The truth in itself is not an end and the world constantly makes that mistake and so you find many people in our universities and our learned centers, our journalists, our government; many places that pride themselves on knowing the truth.
And of course, if you look at the heart of the most vicious revolutions that the history of the world has ever seen, you will see there the idea—we have the truth. If you stand with a Staling or you go to Cambodia or you go to Hitler: you may go to any of these regimes, you will see that they believe they have the truth and ask yourself, “Does the truth make you free?” The truth does not make you free by itself. The Son—if the Son shall set you free, then you shall be free indeed and then, the truth can be a safe and freeing thing. [31:40]
So, the second mark of the disciple is they continue in the Word until they learn by experience what all the things Jesus taught meant and as they put into practice and they step out into life with the things that Jesus has taught them and the things that He did, they begin to know the meaning of freedom—a freedom which comes from the power that is in the Kingdom of Heaven. [32:05]
Let me step aside just a moment and say I think that one of our main problems is that we don’t understand fully the union of Christ that gives us power to do the truth. We get the truth first and try to do it but because we don’t have the power, the truth becomes a killing force in our lives and we use it on others, above all, don’t we? I mean, that’s one of the favorite uses of truth is to kill others. Let me lay my truth on you—better run: run fast. Let me lay my truth on you. Let me straighten you out is what that means, you see? Let me put you in bondage, very often, see?
Now, there is a time for the communication of truth. Don’t misunderstand me. I trust you won’t. But sometimes, things are so important that it is better to be misunderstood than to not be understood at all and perhaps we can straighten it out if there is some misunderstanding. Truth is important all right. It’s very important but it is not the end and the aim. It is not what frees us! The Son is what sets us free as we walk day after day in the yoke which is easy and the burden, which is light. [33:27]
You see the secret of the easy yoke is to follow Jesus fully in all that He did, not to try to just do what He did but to be as He was. See, we are apt to think that to follow Christ is to love our enemies, and bless those that curse us and to turn the other cheek and so on but let me just tell you in a summary fashion—Jesus never said just do that. Hmm? Jesus said, “Follow me into the full life unto the Kingdom of God within which those things will be the natural and normal thing to do.” Never just to do that and that’s why people have taken the Sermon on the Mount and turned it into another piece of bondage. They say things like, “Well, alright, I’ll turn the other cheek but you’d better duck after you hit me on that one” because you see, they say, “Well, that’s what Jesus said so I’ll do that and then I am free to—or “Boy, when I get to the end of the second mile, I am going to throw the load down on the guy toe.” You see? [34:30]
That’s legalism. Jesus is teaching us a spirit in which we live by His grace and we learn that when we enter the full yoke of Christ and do and follow Him in what He did when He was not on the spot as well as when He was on the spot. See, Jesus, didn’t live His life standing around letting people slap Him on the other cheek. Did you know that? I mean Jesus lived His life in long periods of solitude in which He was alone with His Father. He would go out all night and pray; not because, “Oh well, I better go out all night and pray or I’ll be in trouble with God” but because it was His source of Power. [35:15]
He was in the wilderness. The spirit led Him up into the wilderness to be tempted. Why do you suppose it led Him up into the wilderness to be tempted? —Because the wilderness was His place of strength. In solitude, He could be prepared and grow in communion with His Father so when the devil came to Him, He could look him straight in the eye and see him for what he was and call him for what he was and do the right thing. The solitude is the place of strength.
That’s why those wonderful Christians that came in the second and third centuries and the fourth centuries went to the desert. It was not to escape the world. It was to be with God and we see St. Anthony and the others who came back into the world, such powers for God because they had taken the time to be alone and get the strength where with they could stand easy in the yoke of Christ. The secret of the easy yoke is to follow Christ in all that He did. To be as He did, to use His exercises and you might say, “If the Son of God needed forty days in the wilderness, perhaps I need two or three.” Don’t you think? [36:23]
It’s by following Him when He’s off the spot that we are able effortlessly to do what He did when He was on the spot. When Jesus hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) He wasn’t being “big” about it. He loved those people. He loved them. He wanted God to forgive them. He really saw they didn’t know what they were doing. They were lost in all this blindness of pride and fear and hatred and impotence. [36:51]
You see, the lack of power is impotence and oh how that grinds us down—the lack of power. They were lost in that and they were doing the best they can; perhaps they were trying to get promoted or to make money to send back to their family or something of that sort. They didn’t know what they were doing and Jesus was able to see that.
Then the final mark, which I give you, is in John, the 15th chapter—these are marks of the disciple. These are indications of who the disciple is and what we are called to as followers of Him. In John, the 15th chapter, you know we have the beautiful figure of he vine and it’s branches. Jesus says in the 7th verse and the 8th—“If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7) Now, we have to be careful with those words. They can be very discouraging and many people are—they try to do it in a certain way and they become very discourage so we want to talk about those things this week and try to help us understand what these great promises that so often turn out to crush people mean.
Listen to it again though, “ . . . ye shall ask what ye will and it should be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8) A disciple is not only the one who understands that the greatest opportunity in his life is to follow and be with Christ. Its not only one who continues in His word. He is one who through abiding in Christ brings forth much fruit. That is the disciple. [38:43]
Now, I want to say a few things about fruit and we will close for this morning. Fruit is an expression of the inward character of that from which it comes. It comes effortlessly because of the inner nature. When we speak of fruit, it’s not difficult at all for a lime tree to bear limes. If you wanted to bear bananas, that will take a little more effort, but limes are nothing. Just sort of give it its natural habitat and get out of its way—it will bear limes. Bananas, that’s harder. In fact, it’s so hard; it’s impossible, isn’t it?
Jesus said, “A good tree brings forth good fruit.” A corrupt tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit because the fruit always shows effortlessly what is on the inside and these great fruits of love and humility and lack of fear, power over evil, the fruits of the Spirit which are listed in Galatians 5 –“love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness, meekness, temperance”—these fruits are the natural expression of the one who abides in the vine. [40:04]
What does it mean to abide in the vine? Think of the branch for a moment. What does it mean for the branch to abide in the vine? It means to draw all of its life from the vine and as we learn to walk in the way of Christ, as we learn to be open and receptive to His presence in our lives, we learn to wait upon Him to give us the fruit. “ . . . They that wait upon the lord,” Isaiah said, “shall renew heir strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles . . . ” (Isaiah 40:31) Look at the eagle soaring up there, not moving a feather it looks and yet soaring. What moves him? What moves him? The invisible wind buoys the eagle up and he learns how to merely by turning his wings and his feathers to take advantage of the drafts so that up and up and up he soars. [40:55]
They that wait upon the Lord will know the reality of the spiritual kingdom of God, which we talked about. Remember—spirit is disembodied, personal power and the openness of the Kingdom of God to all of us is to say that we can walk into that by faith and the expression of faith is that we wait and draw upon the Lord. The things we want to see accomplished, we bring them before Him in faith and we learn how to live and act with that power of the Kingdom of God in such a way that we see brought forth the natural fruits of that Kingdom. The disciple is one who brings forth much fruit and glorifies the Father in that fruit. [41:51]
Let me just summarize then. I think I’ll just put it even in a little simpler way than I tried to lay out here in detail. The disciple of Christ is the person who has set themselves above all to be like Him; and when we go to make disciples, we so present the Kingdom of God in our persons and in our message in such a way that people will look at it and say, “This is my greatest opportunity. If I miss this, I’ve missed everything. I will never have anything like this. I’ll never have a chance like this again.” [42:33]
And so far from saying, “Well, I’ve got to go see some cattle I bought or I’ve got to go see some land that I’ve purchased.” We say, “Yes I will follow Jesus—whatever it costs—I don’t know how yet.” Because that’s the way it always presents itself. “I don’t know how but I will learn.” It is the person who says, “This is the greatest opportunity in life to be with Jesus Christ” and in our case it means to let Him be with us where we are because in days of old when Jesus called Peter and John and the others, it meant for them to go and be with Him but for us, it means to let Him be with us where we are—where we are.
As Brother Lawrence says, so often we think we would please God by doing different things but what we have to do is understand that we really please Him by doing what we are doing in a different way, and we accept Him in our life where we are and we say, “God’s planted me here to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world by the grace of God” and I accept that and I learn. That great opportunity is what the disciple seizes and he says, “Not only do I want this more than anything else but rather also I will rearrange and arrange my affairs so that it may come to pass.” [43:55]
The person who merely wants to pay his bills probably won’t succeed. It’s the person who arranges their affairs so that they can actually do it that succeeds. And as we meet the grace of God in our lives being brought to life by the word of the Kingdom, we set ourselves to arrange and rearrange our affairs so that we my actually be like Jesus Christ—live as He lived—speak as He lived—letting Him bear the burdens of our sins and taking them away from us as we grow into His likeness until we are conformed to the image of His person and showing forth the word of life all around us so that the world has to struggle to be the same. We no longer struggle. They struggle. [44:49]
When you look at the book of Acts and you look at Jesus’ life, what you realize is, it was the world that had a problem. They didn’t have a problem. And as we dwell richly in Christ and set ourselves to grow and recognize it will take some time, it will take community effort; it will make a lot of mistakes but we will learn and we will grow. As we set ourselves in that way, we give the world a problem and the world has to fight us because it senses in us that Kingdom which shall become the Kingdoms of this world and of His Christ.
This afternoon, I am wondering if I couldn’t just ask you to meditate some on a few simple questions and you will probably suspect what I am going to say from what I have said. I think we ought to take on above all, and I intend to think we never get beyond meditating on these questions. I intend to meditate on them myself—am I a disciple of Jesus indeed? —Not just a Christian. Am I a disciple of Jesus indeed? Have I forsaken all? Do I continue in His word? Am I abiding in Him? And then finally, what is my plan? What is my plan for becoming like Christ? [46:34]
“Dear Lord, we are so thankful for the riches of your word. We pray that by your spirit, which is now present in our midst, you will take command and supervision over all that is said. If anything that has been said that is wrong or might be harmful, we pray that you will blot it out and that you will bring the richness of your self and your Word. Your Word, which is as you said, “is spirit and is life.” You bring that word to bear upon us and guide us as we go through these weeks and these hours. Make it rich for every person here. May they find their relationship to you so sweet and so deep that the light will flow through them and they will be a “city set up on a hill.” In your precious name, we pray. Amen.