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The sermon Sunday was another installment in the series True or False with the statement: The goal of discipleship is to be like Jesus.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23: 15
The Pharisees were vigilant in making converts and discipling them, but Jesus denounces their efforts. Why? What was false about what they were doing? They were getting people to follow their own way instead of God’s way. Tradition vs. grace. Rules vs. mercy.
This is a challenge for Christians today. What are we bringing people to? What does discipleship mean?
We aren’t here to shut others down. In Mark 9, the disciples were concerned about someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus because that person was not one of them. But Jesus says whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives a cup of water to someone in need will be rewarded.
We are not to be exclusive. The kingdom of God is inclusive, wanting all to come and participate in the grace of God.
Discipleship focuses on what God focuses on. In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Discipleship is more that just saying we are following Christ. Discipleship is about doing the will of the God the Father and focusing on what God focuses on.
The Pharisees made the temple a marketplace, focusing on the correct sacrifice to bring to God rather than focusing on prayer. Jesus said that the temple was to be a house of prayer and yet the Pharisees had made it a den of robbers.
When you invest in legalism, you create more legalism in your discipleship. The focus is on what you do rather than on what you are becoming.
Focus on what God emphasizes. Ephesian 4 says:
“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, on baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
This is a central message of Jesus: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. This is what God focuses on and wants to emphasis.
So the answer to the True or False questions is this: True, the goal of discipleship is to be like Jesus, who lived a life worthy of the calling of God. He lived a life of love, focusing on what God focused on and followed the will of God.