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                        "A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD"

                      Are You A Disciple Of Jesus?

     "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
     them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
     Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have
     commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of
     the age."

INTRODUCTION

1. The above statement was made by Jesus to His apostles shortly before
   He ascended to heaven - Mt 28:18-20

2. Commonly called "The Great Commission," notice the main thought of
   Jesus' command...
   a. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."
   b. To "make disciples," therefore, is the GOAL of evangelizing the
      world for Christ

3. Are you a disciple of Jesus?
   a. More than likely you believe in Jesus...
   b. You might even be one to attend church services regularly
   -- But is that what it means to be His disciple?

4. The purpose in this study is to make clear what is involved in
   being a true disciple of Jesus Christ

[To begin, let's define the word "disciple"...]

I. THE DEFINITION OF A DISCIPLE

   A. THE WORD "DISCIPLE"...
      1. The word "disciple" literally means A LEARNER
      2. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New Testament
         Words, it denotes "one who follows another's teaching"
      3. But a disciple was not only a learner, he was also AN ADHERENT
      4. For this reason disciples were spoken of as IMITATORS of their
         teachers.

   B. THE GOAL IN BEING A DISCIPLE...
      1. Stated by Jesus himself:  to be like the teacher - Lk 6:40
      2. To be Christ's disciple, then, is to strive to be like Him!
      3. According to the apostle Paul, this coincides with God's goal
         in the redemption of mankind, that they be conformed to the
         image of His Son - Ro 8:29

[Do you have a strong desire to follow Jesus and become like Him?
Unless you do, it cannot be said that you are truly His disciple!

There are also some "identifying marks" of discipleship given by Jesus
which can help us to further identify a true disciple of Jesus...]

II. THE MARKS OF A DISCIPLE

   A. A DISCIPLE IS "ONE WHO ABIDES IN JESUS' WORDS" - Jn 8:31
      1. This would imply being a diligent student of the teachings of
         Christ
      2. It also requires one to be a "doer" of the Word - Mt 7:21-27;
         Jm 1:21-25
      3. In view of this, a true disciple would not...
         a. Fail to study the Bible diligently
         b. Willingly refrain from opportunities to study with others
            (e.g., Bible classes, church services, gospel meetings).

   B. A DISCIPLE IS ALSO "ONE WHO LOVES THE BRETHREN" - Jn 13:34-35
      1. With a love patterned after the love of Jesus ("as I have
         loved you")
      2. With a love that is visible to the world ("by this all will
         know")
      3. Therefore, a true disciple would...
         a. Make every effort to get to know his brethren
         b. Take advantage of occasions to encourage and grow closer to
            them (e.g., attending services on Sunday and Wednesday
            nights)
      4. Remember, a disciple is one who wants to become like his
         teacher 
         a. Was Jesus willing to sacrifice time and effort for His
            brethren?
         b. Of course, and so will we... IF we are truly HIS disciples!

   C. A DISCIPLE IS "ONE WHO BEARS MUCH FRUIT" - Jn 15:8
      1. Notice the word "much" (also found in verse 5)
         a. Jesus is not talking about an occasional good deed
         b. But a lifestyle which prompts people to glorify God!
            - Mt 5:16
      2. This is so important, that failure to bear much fruit will
         result in being severed from Christ - Jn 15:1-2
      3. How can one be a disciple if he or she is cut off from Christ?

[The point should be clear:  to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means 
more that just a casual church member.  It requires COMMITMENT, 
especially in regards to:
  
                    The teachings of Christ 
                    The love of brethren 
                    Bearing fruit to the glory of God

The kind of commitment involved is seen further when we consider the 
"high cost" of discipleship demanded by Jesus in Lk 14:25-33...]

III. THE COST OF BEING A DISCIPLE

   A. JESUS MUST COME FIRST - Lk 14:26
      1. Before anyone else, including members of our own family 
         - Mt 10:34-37
      2. Even before one's own self - Lk 9:23-25

   B. WE MUST BE WILLING TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST - Lk 14:27
      1. Trying to live godly lives in an ungodly world, we may find
         that following Christ sometimes involves ridicule and
         persecution - 2Ti 3:12
      2. Even if we are blessed to escape such things, we must still be
         willing to expend time and effort in promoting the cause of
         Christ in positive ways

   C. PUTTING IT SIMPLY, WE MUST FORSAKE ALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST 
      - Lk 14:33
      1. In other words, Jesus must be KING and LORD of our lives
      2. Nothing can take precedent over Him and His Will for us

[This kind of "high cost" of discipleship demanded by Jesus caused 
many people to turn away from following Him.  But Jesus wasn't trying
to attract large crowds, He wanted disciples!

Is the COST worth it?  I believe so, for consider some of the REWARDS
of discipleship...]

IV. THE REWARDS OF BEING A DISCIPLE

   A. THERE IS THE PROMISE OF "FUTURE BLESSINGS"...
      1. We shall be saved from the wrath of God which is yet to come
         upon the world for its sins - Ro 5:9
      2. We can look forward with joyful anticipation of eternity with
         God, free from sorrow, pain and death - Re 21:1-8

   B. THERE ARE ALSO "PRESENT BLESSINGS"...
      1. Jesus offers a PEACE the world cannot give to calm the
         troubled heart - Jn 14:27
      2. His words inspire JOY to lift our spirits out of any
         depression - Jn 15:11
      3. He also offers to those who follow Him the ABIDING LOVE OF
         GOD, which can cast out fear - Jn 15:9; 1Jn 4:18
      4. And he makes it possible for us to be members of THE FAMILY OF
         GOD, which is able if need be to replace our physical family
         - Mk 10:28-30

[There are many other blessings we could mention that are enjoyed by
disciples of Jesus; but these suffice to demonstrate that though 
discipleship is costly, the rewards far exceed the cost!

Now that we understand the nature of discipleship, its cost and 
rewards, I hope that we want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.  
But how does one begin?

For the answer we return to our beginning text - Mt 28:19-20...]

V. THE BEGINNING OF A DISCIPLE

   A. ACCORDING TO JESUS, IT INVOLVES BAPTISM - Mt 28:19
      1. Why baptism?
         a. Remember the goal of discipleship:  to be like Jesus
         b. He was holy and sinless, yet we are to be like Him
         c. Fortunately, baptism is described as an act of faith which
            puts us in contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ
            so we can be forgiven - Ac 2:38; 22:16; Ro 6:3-4
         d. It is also the means by which one "puts on Christ" 
            - Ga 3:27
         -- SO BAPTISM IS THE LOGICAL STARTING PLACE FOR TRUE
            DISCIPLESHIP!
      2. But what is baptism?
         a. It is an act of submission which must be preceded by faith
            in Jesus and repentance for our sins - Ac 2:36-38; 8:36-37
            1) This precludes infant baptism
            2) For infants are incapable of believing and repenting
         b. It is also an act of submission which involves a burial in
            water, in which one then rises to walk in newness of life
            through the power of God - Ac 8:38; Ro 6:3-4; Col 2:12
            1) This precludes sprinkling or pouring as a mode of
               baptism
            2) For neither of these involve a "burial" nor an immersion
               (which is the meaning of the Greek word "baptidzo")
         c. When done according to the Word of God, baptism then
            becomes an act of faith on our part which results in a
            wonderful working of God in our lives!
            1) Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus 
               - Ac 22:16; Ep 5:25-27
            2) We are "regenerated" and "renewed" by the Spirit of God
               so we can now live for God! - Tit 3:5-6
            3) It is truly a "rebirth" involving both water and the
               Spirit - Jn 3:5

   B. BUT BAPTISM IS ONLY THE BEGINNING, TEACHING AND OBEDIENCE MUST
      FOLLOW - Mt 28:20
      1. This brings us back to the very definition of discipleship
      2. For Jesus clearly states:
         a. We are to be TAUGHT (that is, to be LEARNERS)
         b. We are to OBSERVE (that is, to be ADHERENTS or DOERS)
      3. In this way we embark on a life devoted to learning and doing
         all that Jesus has commanded us to do

CONCLUSION

1. Only those scripturally baptized and demonstrating the "marks" of
   discipleship, despite the "costs," can truly be called disciples of
   Jesus!

2. Only they can realistically look forward to the "rewards" of
   discipleship, and take consolation in the promise of Jesus:

     "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"
                                                     - Mt 28:20

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the prospects of "A 
Closer Walk With God" and more fruitful service as a disciple should
be of great interest to you.  I hope the lessons to follow will help
fulfill that interest.
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