Taking Our Pulse: “Discipleship and Education”

Matthew 28:18-20; Titus 2

Based on the seventh characteristic of a healthy church in Take Your Church’s Pulse. 

Theme: Jesus sends us to make disciples by teaching how to live a new life.
Goal: To teach how to live a new life.
Need: disciple = student, learner, pupil = learning how to live a new life.

(Read Matthew 28:18-20)

People of God, Jesus sends us to make disciples. These are the last words of the book of Matthew. These are the last words Matthew records from Jesus’ life on earth. So in view of Jesus’ vision (“the joy” that enabled Him to endure the cross and scorn its shame), these words are very important.

I remember the first time this really hit home with me. Just after I was discharged from the Air Force, I took a trip to the Philippines with Christian Reformed World Missions’ Summer Missions Program. I had been called by God to be a minister, and at that time I believed that call also meant being a world missionary. This was my first mission experience in a foreign country, and I loved it. I saw local churches, talked with pastors, learned some of the culture and the language, watched people respond joyfully to the invitation to believe in Jesus. All in all it was a great trip. It was a little like going to Disneyland for the first time, almost magical.

Two years later, Teri and I were asked to go back to the Philippines with the Summer Missions Program as chaperones for the team. This time things were different. I still had a great time, but this time my “rose colored glasses” were gone. We saw some of the same people I had seen two years previous. We visited some of the same churches and communities and I noticed that not much had changed. People still struggled with a lot of the same issues. New believers had no idea what it meant to follow Jesus. They were stuck in their same old sinful patterns. Not much had changed. My second trip gave me a more realistic picture of life as a missionary. Like the second time you visit Disneyland, some of the “magic” was gone.

As I have reflected on these two experiences, I believe God is teaching me one thing - Jesus sends us to make disciples (which is really difficult), not merely converts. It’s not just about a “one time” decision to believe Jesus (a convert). Following Jesus as a disciple is about many daily decisions, times when we choose deliberately to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to ourselves. This is what it means to be a disciple.

A disciple = student, learner, pupil. In other words, a disciple is learning how to live a new life. So how do we make disciples? According to the Bible, Jesus sends us to make disciples by teaching them to “obey everything” Jesus commands. Therefore, obedience is the mark of a disciple. So in order to make disciples, we must learn to obey Jesus and teach others to do the same thing. So that means this is a different kind of school and a different type of education.

Most schools teach us new information and ask us to remember it and prove we remember it by repeating it back in tests, etc. The only problem with that model is that there is a tendency to learn the information for the test and then forget it. Most schools make it their goal to “inform” their students by exposing them to new information.

However, in the school of Jesus, things are different. Jesus does not simply want to “inform” His students. Jesus wants to “transform” us with the power of the good news that there is new life through true faith in Jesus. New life means a new way of living. Disciples are learning how to live a whole new life!

But what does that look like?

In the Bible, the apostle Paul writes a letter to his “true son in their common faith,” Titus. Titus is a pastor. He is sent to help build the church, the body of Christ, in Crete. In short, his job is to make disciples who will make disciples. In the second chapter, Paul describes very clearly how Titus should go about making disciples.

(Read Titus 2)

The one thing you notice right off the bat is that Paul is not telling Titus to only offer good information. His goal is not simply to “inform.” His goal is to “transform” people through the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

Teach sound doctrine (teaching). Teach older men ... Teach older women ... encourage the young men ... Teach slaves ...

Do you notice something all of these different teachings have in common? They have a common purpose. Paul instructs Titus to teach these things SO THAT ... no one will malign the Word of God ... SO THAT ... those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us ... SO THAT ... in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive ...

These things are taught SO THAT our lives would not contradict our faith.

(Read verse 11)

Everybody sees the grace of God. It is plain, but they will not believe it unless they see it in action - as it is worked out in our lives.

(Read verse 12) It = the grace of God

You see this is the fullness of the good news. It is not just about gaining information. It is about “transformation,” and a transformed life testifies to the truth of what we believe! But transformation is not easy. In fact, it is impossible apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Look at how Paul describes this salvation in chapter 3.

(Read Titus 3:3-7; especially verses 5-7)

We were not able to leave our “foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved” lives until God our Savior (Jesus) saved us! He did it! But how did He do it? Jesus did it through the “washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit!” This is a supernatural, spiritual process of transformation. It is not just about being converted in my mind (“I think I believe in Jesus because I don’t want to go to hell”). It’s about being converted (transformed) in our hearts and wills, so that the goal of our life is no longer to serve ourselves, but to honor God with our lives.

God does the work powerfully, supernaturally, but just like a newborn baby, someone needs to take the reborn person and show them how to live the new life they have been given through true faith in Jesus.

This is why Jesus sends us to make disciples, not converts. Conversion is God’s work. It is a supernatural, spiritual work in which God powerfully yet pleasingly changes our hearts so that we believe the good news about Jesus and then by the power of the Holy Spirit we enter into new life. This is God’s work. The Church then is responsible to teach people how to live this new life! And that is discipleship - students, learners, pupils - learning how to live the new life. And the really cool thing is that once a disciple, always a disciple. We all have lots to learn, and our learning is never done until we pass on into eternal life with Jesus.

A disciple is someone who loves Jesus and wants to follow Him (doing what He says = obedience) for life!

Jesus sends us to make disciples by teaching people how to live the new life!

So how are we doing? Do we “make disciples” here, or do we just go through the motions? Is our faith mostly about showing up in this building on Sundays or is it more? Jesus sends us to make disciples, so we should consider if that is what we are really doing here.

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Jesus sends us to make disciples by teaching people how to live the new life! We are sent out to teach what it means to follow Jesus, as we continue to learn that for ourselves ... for God’s glory and Christ’s kingdom! Amen.