This is the article for the next lesson at our youth meeting this Friday night. We are looking at lesson 4 of “Counting the cost of discipleship”. Here is a quick review of what we have learned.
- Lesson 1 – The call to follow Jesus
- Lesson 2 – The cost of following Jesus
- Lesson 3 – Difference between a genuine follower of Christ and a false “follower”
This lesson is a continuation of lesson 3, the commitment level of a genuine follower of Christ. Do you consider yourself a follower of Christ? What is your commitment level like? Is there a limit? Will you follow Him to a certain point but not beyond that? This lesson explains how committed (dedicated) the followers of Christ must be.
The study begins with a question, “can you imitate the lingo, dress like the crowd, and pretend to walk the walk and not really be a genuine follower of Christ?”. Unfortunately, many people, instead of choosing to follow Christ, choose to join a church and get religious instead of dedicating themselves to following Christ.
I. Not everyone who “follows” Christ is a true follower of Christ, dedicated to following Him till the end.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement ; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble ? 62 “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before ? 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life ; the flesh profits nothing ; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go ? You have words of eternal life. 69 “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil ?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:60-71)
As you can see, there is an atmosphere of tension in this passage. Jesus is in the 3rd year of His public ministry and His popularity is starting to decline. He is not worried though because He is accomplishing exactly what He was sent to do. A large group of people are following Him at this point, not so much for His teaching and spiritual guidance but more for the fact that He is meeting their physical needs (He has just fed the 5,000). Among these many followers are also His 12 disciples. The reason that there is tension among the followers is because of the strong teaching that Jesus has just given them earlier in the chapter about the type of commitment that it takes to follow Him. Many of them were grumbling because they did not agree with what He had said. Their response was, “this is a difficult statement”. In other words, this is too extreme to handle. Jesus did not soften the message once He saw that He was loosing the crowd. He continued on teaching truth. After He shared the next truth with them, the text says that many of His disciples withdrew and no longer walked with Him anymore. At this point, a contemporary pastor or ministry leader would probably run after them and ask them to come back, yet, look at what Jesus does. He turns to His 12 and asks them, in essence, “did you not see them leave? Don’t you want to go with them?”. Jesus knew what was in their hearts. This was not a test for Him. This was a test for them, to see that their faith was genuine. Peter’s response is key. (keep in mind that those who left had heard Jesus say that His words were life). Peter says, “where are we going to go, You have the Words that lead to eternal life. Why would we go anywhere else?” The true disciples are the ones who were following Jesus, not for the physical gains but for the spiritual. They had come to believe that He was the Son of God, the Messiah. The rest were not as interested in the spiritual as much as they were in the physical. But even among the 12, there is 1 who is not genuine in his faith. We learn in another Gospel that he was the one carrying the money bag and would take from it liberally. He was following because of the physical benefits and was not interested in the spiritual.
Why do you follow Jesus Christ? Is it because you believe that He has the Words of life that lead to eternal life? Is it because you believe that He is the Son of God? Or, do you follow Christ for some physical gain? Are you totally dedicated to following the teachings of Christ as written in the Bible or are there things in the Word of God that are just too strong, too radical? Are you ready to remain faithful till the end, no matter what?
II. The key to success is abiding in the Word of God.
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine (John 8:31)
Jesus is speaking to people who heard His message and believed it. He is now teaching them how to remain faithful till the end. They are to continue in the Word of God – the word “continue” is the Greek word “Meno” and it means “to live in”. A true disciple of Jesus Christ is to live in the Word of God. The Bible is to guide a follower of Christ step by step of every day in every decision that he makes. Do you live in the Word of God? Does the Word of God influence and guide every decision that you make? Are you a student of the Bible, studying It daily?
III. A true disciple of Christ will produce fruit.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away ; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches ; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing . 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Jesus is the vine and His disciples are the branches. The branch that remains in the vine will produce much fruit. The disciple must remain in Jesus Christ and the Words of Christ must remain in Him. If this takes place then the disciple will make other disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. He will dedicate every day of his life to bearing fruit (making disciples who will be dedicated and make more dedicated disciples). The one who is not genuine will reveal himself by not producing fruit. As the old saying goes, “the creme raises to the top”. In other words, when it is time to produce fruit, the genuine and the false are separated. What about you, are you producing fruit? Are you making disciples who are dedicated to the Lord, who in turn, seek to make more dedicated disciples? If you are not connected to the source, Jesus Christ through the Word and prayer, then you will not be able to make dedicated disciples who in turn will make more dedicated disciples.
So, if we put all of this together with what we learned in the previous lesson, we see that there are:
- 2 gates (narrow and wide)
- 2 roads (small and broad)
- 2 kinds of prophets (true and false)
- 2 types of fruit (good and bad)
- 2 kinds of men (wise and foolish)
- 2 kinds of followers (genuine and false)
May God help us evaluate our lives and be honest with ourselves. Saint Paul uses a phrase many times in his epistles, “do not be deceived”. Please do not be deceived and do not deceive yourself, are you totally dedicated to serving Christ all the days of your life? Do you live every day so that you can be a good disciple and make disciples? If not, then what does that say about you? May the Lord help us bear much fruit and may we do our part.