Really My Disciples – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir – 18 July 2021

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth … (No one) has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest to the Father’s heart, he has made him known.” 

— John 1:14, 18

Prayer

As we gather this day, gracious Father, we do so celebrating Your Son’s presence, both in the flesh during His earthly ministry and in our very lives from day to day.  All this has come about because of Your kind provision for the needs of humankind, Your creation that You still love.  We express our gratitude, in His strong name … amen. 

Song

Today's Message: Really My Disciples

Scripture Reading: John 8:31-32

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

As we begin this third part of our message series “The Real Thing” we find Jesus adding a “post-script” to a very important discussion described for us in chapter eight of the gospel of John.  Things have become very serious in His ministry, as it seems apparent that He is no longer just another travelling holy man … He is beginning to get under the skin of the Jewish spiritual leadership.  This shouldn’t surprise us, for Jesus has been sent to be “the one” (as we read in the words of Philip last week) not just “another” one.  It is no wonder that the religious authorities are beginning to ask some very pointed questions …

The “post-script” to the initial discussion begins in verse 31, which kind of serves as an “Oh, by the way” to what was said in verses 12-30.  We may be shocked to read that Jesus addresses His words “to the Jews who had believed in him.”  Though He had been well received amongst the Gentiles there were some from the Jewish community who heard His words willingly as well.  It is obvious that they had taken the first steps in becoming part of Jesus’ band of followers.  They need to understand what happens next and Jesus is happy to provide such guidance.

The Master begins by attending to what they were implicitly asking … how to “really” become His “disciples”.  Since the folks He’s addressing are Jewish and part of the Judaistic “faith system” you’d think He might have started a little further along than simply addressing them in this way.  After all, had not their ancestor Abraham been chosen to lead a great nation, of which they were a part?  But in referring to these potential “recruits” in this way, our Lord is giving them (and us) an idea as to what they might be facing as they consider the implications of throwing their lot with Him.  Former General Secretary of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold, in his wonderful diary of faith entitled “Markings”, explained the future of “life-long learning” that awaits each of us who are pondering the possibility of “living for Jesus”:

“Before God, who speaks through all men,
you are always in the bottom class of nursery school.”

What a daunting prospect!  Yet we must admit that the concept of “disciple” is true even in our everyday lives.  Those of us as pastors within our Baptist faith family are encouraged to take “continuing education” courses to maintain our effectiveness as Christian leaders.  Most of you in the working world are familiar with “in-service training” which is a requirement within most occupations.  Is not the cause of Jesus of much more importance, as we consider the importance of the spiritual side of life?  The ministry of the church is much more effective when those of us who serve these congregations gladly accept our role as disciples.  After many years of public service, U.S. president Harry Truman was fond of saying what he had discovered in one of the toughest jobs in the world … “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.”  Expecting new insights all along the way brings vitality in the life of every true believer.

So, we must admire the courage Jesus shows in addressing these potential recruits in this way.  But of course, there is a condition to “true” discipleship, which we see in the text by the appearance of a tiny word:

“You are really my disciples, if …”

Our Lord makes it clear that there is something very necessary to become part of “the cause” … and it is vital for disciples to grasp this point, whether the ones Jesus addressed in this passage or for us in our present-day context.  The potential Jewish recruits were proud of their spiritual heritage, but it wasn’t sufficient.  We too may produce quite a resume of what we might call “faith achievement.”  But it all pales in comparison to what the Master is asking of all of us:

“You are really my disciples if … you hold to my teaching.”

The word translated here as “hold” in the New International Version (NIV), which is an oft-used translation today, comes from a word which Jesus applied prominently in His teaching, also rendered as “abide, remain” or “continue.”  We all know the importance of consistency in our daily world … but it means even more in our life of faith.  The term here translated “teaching” is a possibility as well … but it comes from “word”, which is a literal translation.  Of course, it can mean “teaching” … but we might think of other possibilities.  In all this we are reminded that this gospel of John begins in this way:

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”

— John 1:1

It seems to so many who study scripture for a living that to confine the meaning of Jesus’ instruction in John 8:31 to simply “teaching” might suggest a faith that is merely an academic exercise.  When we read the first words of the gospel above, it is obviously more than that.  We learn more than what we glean in any lecture … we also are taught, sometime unknowingly, by those we work and live with … seeing how to swing a golf club, hammer a nail, comfort a frightened child.  Jesus said many important things, but He confirmed and affirmed them in the servanthood He exhibited (see the last Supper) and the sacrifice He made in His own body on our behalf.  The one who serves as teacher | instructor | mentor leads most effectively when his/her words are backed up by substantive action.  It wasn’t just His teaching that the disciples were encouraged to “continue” … it was the action in discipleship that can sometimes speak louder than words.

Jesus closes His remarks to this unique group of listeners in a very logical way … with the use of another small word, again a conjunction;

“Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”

— John 9: 32

Someone becomes a real disciple by continuing in the true word (Jesus and His teaching) … then comes a true grasping of truth and the freedom along with it.  This is the result of a life of faithful discipleship.  For a fuller understanding of this freedom … stay tuned for next week’s message!

Prayer

On this day of worship, we pause to give You thanks, eternal Father, that You have made it possible for us to attain something remarkable …  the status of true disciples of Your Son.  As we praise You for yet another magnificent gift that comes from Your hand, we remember the high price that was paid for our partnership in His gospel.  “There to my heart was the blood applied … glory to His name!” 

As we remark this day on such a wonderful arrangement, we are aware that we have the tendency to misuse this gift.  Sometimes we elevate our status to the point where we forget that we, like our Master, have been called to apply the blessing of discipleship in areas of service.  As sons and daughters who require guidance, we pray that, through Your Spirit, You would continually remind us that we will always be apprenticed for our role in Your kingdom.    

Finally, our creator God, we bring before you a troubled world which, for the most part, continues to resist Your overtures of love and guidance.  We admit that sometimes we despair of the global news that we hear and see each day … but then we remember the words of the Psalmist that, through Your Spirit and Your servants, You are “working salvation from the midst of the earth (Ps. 74:12).”  How thankful we are for Your unflagging care.  May the lives of Your servants reflect such optimism and determination.  We ask because Jesus said we should … amen.

Song

Benediction

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” 

— Matthew 6:19-20