Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

1-20-05

Title: Characteristics of Discipleship

Text: “” (John 8:31)

Bible Reading: John 8:30-59


 

Children have a funny way of looking at things. 

 

I read a cute little story which points out that fact.

 

It seems Little Jeremy was on a walk with his grandfather when a stranger smiled at him and asked, “How old are you?”

 

Jeremy replied, “Three.”

 

The man then asked, “When will you be four?”

 

Jeremy answered, “When I’m through being three.”

 

Well, children are cute and they can also be funny, but praise God, they can be saved and grow up following Jesus.

 

But, what does it really mean to follow Jesus?

 

Somehow, in the early part of the twenty-first century people have lost sight of what it really means to follow Jesus; that is to say, to be a disciple of His. 

 

Discipleship, in today’s world is being linked to the external routine of religion, rather than having to do with a saving experience with Jesus Christ.

 

During Jesus’ life and ministry on earth, many people tried to follow Him.

 

When He spoke, many put their faith in Him. 

 

Some were infatuated with His miracles and teachings.

 

Others were just curious. 

 

But, Jesus didn’t want people to follow Him for any other reason than they were generally committed to Him. 

 

In order to tell the true followers from the false, Jesus gave His disciples some of the characteristics of true followers.

 

So, our message today is about those characteristics of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

 

There are four of them, and the first one is found in verses 31-33:

 

31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?”

 

The First Characteristic of a True Disciple is Persistence.

 

One of the best definitions of perseverance or persistence that I’ve ever heard, was given by the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon. 

 

He said, “It was perseverance that got the snails to the ark.”

 

Jesus realized that some people made an impulsive decision to follow Him. 

 

He knew they followed mainly to see His miracles or just to be part of the crowd. 

 

He also knew that many would decide not to follow Him. 

 

After Jesus taught the crowds that He was the bread of life, “many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him” (John 6:66).

 

There’s a reason they drew back and deserted the Lord Jesus.

 

The crowd that followed Him was very large, but they began to discover that His teachings were difficult to put into practice.

 

That’s the reason-It was too hard!

 

In fact, following Him pointed to the possibility of sharing in His suffering and violent death.

 

Slowly, His disciples began to fall away.

 

Perhaps those who left Jesus could foresee or anticipate the “tragedy” that would take place at the hands of the Roman government.

 

Others, perhaps, lost interest or hope in Jesus.

 

Their action prompted Jesus to ask the 12 apostles if they, too, would “go away.”

 

Jesus was not surprised by the many that turned away from Him.

 

He knew of their discontentment, because He could read their hearts, and see they lacked commitment.

 

Jesus pointed out that perseverance would be the sign of a true disciple. 

 

He said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.” 

 

Folks, discipleship is not the excitement of one moment. 

 

It is a patient determination to continue in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

 

The famous pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski started playing the piano at the age of three.

 

He developed slowly, but he was determined to become a master of the piano. 

 

He practiced six hours almost every day of his life. 

 

And he finally reached his goal through discipline and determination.

 

To a crowd of potential followers, Jesus gave this sure sign of a disciple. 

 

He said, “A disciple is a person who continuously follows Him.” 

 

The genuine evidence of discipleship is in the sustained effort made by the individual.

 

When they believed on Him, as their Savior, they gave up themselves to be his disciples.

 

 

Back then, as well as now, there are many who said they were Christ’s disciples who are not his disciples, except in show and name only.

 

Those who are willing to be Christ’s disciples ought to be told that it would be better for them to never come to Him, unless they come with a dedication to be faithful and to stay with Him.

 

They shouldn’t think there is ever going to be the possibility for them to revoke their membership in God’s family.

 

We send our children to school, only for a few years; but only those who belong to Jesus are willing to be bound to Him for life.

 

Jesus wants to have our dwelling in His Word, and to make it the center of our rest, and a place of safety.

 

We should constantly conform ourselves to His Word.

 

It’s faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. 

 

It will produce something. 

 

After a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he will want to “continue in His Word.” 

 

The proof of faith is continuing in the faith.

 

We have been told that His truth shall make you free. 

 

The truth is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. 

 

He is the Truth. 

 

So, the first characteristic of a true disciple is persistence, and:

 

The second is, “A True Disciple has Freedom.”

 

First, we come to Him as our Savior. 

 

Then when we go on with Him, we know by experience that we are free. 

 

We are free from the penalty of sin-we don’t need to lie awake at night and worry about going to hell. 

 

He doesn’t even ask us to live the Christian life. 

 

He asks us to trust Him, and let Him live His life through us. 

 

When we yield to Him, we are free.

 

The Jews, who were His audience on this occasion, put blind trust in religious tradition and ceremonies.

 

All of their hope was on their ancestry and obedience to the Law of Moses.

 

Throughout the years, they had been in bondage to Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Syria, and, at present, they were in bondage to Rome.

 

Regardless of their history of political slavery, they felt free spiritually because they were a holy nation, an elect race chosen by God.

 

But, Jesus disagreed with them, and as a result He angered them.

 

He told them they were slaves of sin, not sons of God, and that only through Him could they find true spiritual freedom.

 

That’s what He told them in verses 34-38:

 

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.
35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever.
36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.
38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

 

Do you want to be free, then get to know God’s Son, because the Son makes you free, so trust Him and follow Him?

 

His truth makes you free, so study it, believe it, and obey it.

 

Satan imposes slavery that seems like freedom; but Jesus gives you a yoke that sets you free.

 

Jesus taught about a freedom that led to bondage.

 

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.” 

 

All of us are going to be a slave to something or someone.

 

We are either going to have Jesus as our Master or some sin will be our master.

 

Jesus taught a group of potential disciples about how sin leads to bondage. 

 

Going through life with an attitude of self-will, and self-trust, and self-assertion leads to a harmful bondage. 

 

No one who follows Jesus can be a master to himself.

 

But Jesus didn’t stop with teaching about the freedom that leads to bondage; He also spoke of a bondage that leads to freedom.

 

A true disciple is one who has renounced his or her way to follow the way of Christ. 

 

You see, bondage to the Lord leads to authentic freedom. 

 

Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

 

The true disciple of Jesus lives to please only one person-Jesus Christ. 

 

A disciple of Jesus is not a slave to sin, but is a slave to the Master.

 

Out second point was, “A true disciple has freedom,” and the third is:

 

A True Disciple has Christlike Behavior.

 

Listen as I read verses 39-44:

 

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did,
40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did.
41 You do what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The old adage says, “Like father like son.” 

 

Although they claimed they were children of Abraham and therefore they had God’s favor, Jesus tells these men that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would act like Abraham. 

 

And it’s clear that they weren’t doing that, since they wanted to kill Jesus. 

 

So instead of being the children of Abraham, they were, in fact, the children of the Devil.

 

Satan is the originator of murder and lying and they are imitating Him. 

 

He said, “You do what your father did.” 

 

Friends, you and I are to imitate Jesus; He should be our example, not the Devil. 

 

We should take on His characteristics and do what He does. 

 

Some in the crowd shouted, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” 

 

Jesus answered them with, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” 

 

How can you tell if you’re a child of God? 

 

That’s easy, Jesus says, “If God were your Father, you would love me.” 

 

We can love Him because He first loved us and He died for us.

 

John, in his epistle, gives the same answer, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone that loveth Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1).

 

If you love God, then you must be a child of God, because only His children love Him. 

 

The “good news” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that any one can believe in Him and be saved. 

 

No one is excluded from coming to Jesus.

 

The third point was, “A True Disciple has Christlike Behavior.”

 

There’s One More Characteristic of a True Believer, and That is, “He Honors Christ.”

 

Many claimed to be disciples of Jesus, but they did not honor Him. 

 

In fact, they accused Him of being demon-possessed. 

 

Jesus replied, “I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” 

 

They could not be true followers and dishonor the Lord in this way. 

 

True disciples honor, and adore, and obey Christ.

 

Listen as I read verses 48-59.

 

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 Jesus answered, “I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.
50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he will be the judge.
51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.
55 But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

 

The Jewish leaders were angered by the accusations that Jesus made; they struck back by accusing Christ of being a demon-possessed Samaritan and not a true Jew.

 

Such an accusation dishonored God and would result in judgment against those who made it.

 

Next, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

 

At this point, the Jews state that now they know He has a demon, after all, every one of the great men of the Old Testament had died.

 

This must disprove Christ’s promise that whoever would keep His word would not die.

 

Their conclusion was, “The word of Christ was not true.”

 

However, Christ answered their question by claiming that He does not seek glory for Himself, but only for the Father.

 

And if He says that He does not know the Father, He will be a liar like the Jews.

 

Because they were limited to physical understanding, the Jews could not comprehend how Christ saw Abraham.

 

Christ now makes one of the strongest statements He ever made.

 

He said, “Before Abraham existed, I am.”

 

Christ has always been, and He was the great “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, where He spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

 

The religious crowd was so angered by Christ’s claim that they belonged to the devil and that Christ was God, they attempted to kill Him.

 

But, as Jesus said, they were only doing the works of their father, the devil.

 

They would not honor the Lord Jesus, because they never accepted Him.

 

There’s a story about a man who did honor Christ. 

 

His name was General William Booth; he founded the Salvation Army.

 

At the age of eighty-three, he was told he would not regain his sight.

 

Booth spoke to his son, Bramwell, and said, “You mean that I am blind?”

 

Bramwell replied, “Well, General, I fear that we must consider that.”

 

After a pause the elder Booth asked, “I shall never see your face again?”

 

“No, probably not in this world,” said Bramwell.

 

The senior’s hand then extended to take hold of his son’s hand and he said, “God must know best!”

 

After another pause he stated, “Bramwell, I have done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes.

 

Now I shall do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes.”

 

Even blindness couldn’t stop him from honoring God through helping others.

 

Conclusion

 

Are you a true disciple of Jesus Christ? 

 

The proof that you are is a continuing commitment to Him, and Christ-like behavior, and a Christ-honoring-life.

 

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