The Importance of Discipleship and Growth P4

How Important is discipleship in your church and teaching?

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23

In Matthew 13:23, we see two key words that strike at the foundation of our complacency, Hears… and does. He calls us to wake up and do something with our faith, not to just sit in a pew and complain, or lay on a couch as life drifts by. A call is pronounced. An action must take place to secure that His precepts will cause an impact.

We cannot just hear; we have to obey. Obedience is not in words, but in deeds that demonstrate our words through practice and action.

This is not about our salvation; it is about our response of worth and our impact. Our salvation by faith alone may secure us, but what is the impact if we do nothing with it? As His elect, whenever we read and/or hear the Word of God, we will have the desire to heed the call and put it into action.

I have been in pastoral ministry as a profession since 1982, and was in lay-ministry for several years prior to that. I can tell you absolutely that the one thing that keeps most people from accepting Christ as their Savior and being born again is that they do not want to admit their need; they do not want to be convicted. They do not want to admit that there is something basically wrong with them. They still cling to the idea that there is some good thing about them that God should accept, and if they do more good than bad, He will have to let them into heaven.

I do not think anything has been more destructive in the whole realm of theology and what is preached in so many churches than the idea that we are O.K. as we are. No repentance is necessary.

Come one, come all! But, the Bible says we cannot come to Him; He comes to us.

Christ will save us if only we will acknowledge our need and accept Him as our Lord and Savior; yet, so few will. It is the same with Christians who lack the motivation to witness; they do not want to admit that others have a need. It is not an official Christian policy by any imagination; rather, it is a rationalization we make because of our fears, complacency, or indecision.

Despite our best efforts, we are not fulfilling God’s law. We are not able to do so.

People desperately need a Savior! So, carefully consider any barriers in your thinking that blocks you from this core truth and reality of life:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16.) What is the barrier that holds you back from giving this proclamation of love to others? We all need to find and remove it.
Some passages to consider: Psalm 119:89-90; John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Beware of Reading in our Feelings and Desires as His Word!

In Matthew 21:18-32, Jesus gave a seemingly weird illustration and example to get our attention and get us out of our complacency and pride when He cursed a fig tree. Why did He do that?

This has always perplexed me and as a youth pastor, I sometimes used it as a joke to make a point. But, in the ten years it took me to research and write an inductive commentary on Matthew, I delved into this fig tree and the answer was easy to find and quite simple and inspirational. This time of year, figs would be just forming leaves and have small, green, uneatable fruit. Apparently, this tree had nothing but leaves, displaying only self-interest. The readiness of the fruit was not the issue; it was the willingness to make the fruit, which is a very profound mirror to us and our churches. A tree that has leaves at that time of year should also have fruit, even though it would not be ready to eat. It was cursed because it refused to produce. This tree promised, but did not deliver; it was just a display having no real intention, impact, or worth.

In this passage, the emphasis is for us not to doubt or to hold back, lest we lose out on what is best for us and those around us!

This is exactly what Jesus wants us to get for our lives; we must be fruitful; and we do this by immersing ourselves in His Word.

Consider this: making leaves is essential for a tree, especially an evergreen; but, unless it also produces fruit, a fruit tree is useless. We are meant to be fruit trees for our Lord! The fig tree only cared about itself, whereas the other fig trees produced fruit before their leaves. We need to take a deep look into our lives and see ourselves as God sees us.

Perhaps you can consider yourself as a tree; are your roots strong and healthy? That is, are you being fed, then carrying His nutrients to all the parts of your being? Is your trunk strong?

That is, how is your relationship with Christ? Are your branches supporting the nests of birds? That is, are you nurturing and exhibiting good character, being useful to others? Are your leaves healthy and strong? That is, how is your personality and disposition? Do you attract people or are you revolting to them? And, are you producing fruit or just leaves? If you are not in the Word, none of this will work (Matt. 7:15-20; 1 Pet. 4: 1-11; 2 Pet. 1:1-11)!

Leaves are essential, but the leaves are only good for that plant, not for others. Fruit is to be harvested and shared. Is your faith real so it makes a difference to you and others around you?

We must make sure that our lives are not just about the care of ourselves, but the care of others as well. If you think this is too hard, consider and take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle! So, let us live with excellence, being our best for His glory! We can be a good tree or a bad one. Your church can produce fruit to nourish and impact others, or give out rotten fruit that will discourage and repulse all those in your neighborhood. Faith is the key to allow your determination and His call to move you. Be willing to be led by the truth of His Word, and by your faith and trust in Him (Phil 2:10-13; 4:8-9; Heb. 2:10; 11:1).