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Sermon – Secret Discipleship
Last week I talked a little bit about the need of fulfilling God’s calling upon the church and our lives, and here at Living Waters we’re all about this overall goal.
First, it’s to share the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone, or as our slogan reads, “Each One Reach One.” Next it’s to build up the house of God within every person, or is literally what discipleship is all about. And then our mission is to make a difference in our community for Christ.
Today I’d like to do part one of a two part series on discipleship. What I’d like is for this series to lead us into a discipleship program that will begin in a couple of weeks.
In the fourth-century there lived a Christian monk named Telemachus (Te–lemekes). He lived in a remote village, tending his garden and spending much of his time in prayer. One day he heard the voice of the Lord telling him to go to Rome, so he obeyed, setting out on foot.
Weeks later, he arrived in the city at the time of a great festival. The little monk followed the crowd into the Coliseum. He saw the gladiators stand before the emperor and say, “We who are about to die salute you.” Then he realized these men were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd. He cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators and saying, “In the name of Christ, stop!” they thought it was part of the show and began laughing.
When they realized it wasn’t, the laughter turned to anger. As he was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into his body. He fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, “In the name of Christ, stop!”
Then a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Coliseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Coliseum.
The year was 391 AD, and that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. Never again in that great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd, all because of one tiny voice that could hardly be heard.
This story illustrates the power that one person can have when they courageously take a stand for the Lord.
Times haven’t changed all that much from when Telemachus took that fateful journey. The same games are played, maybe not as brutal, but just as deadly. It is played in today’s Ultimate Fighting Challenge, in unsanctioned street fights, or on the Internet where kids are becoming adept at killing others on video screens.
The unfortunate reality is that we tend to compromise our beliefs and values so as not to upset the fun or recreation of others.
In churches there are in endless discussions concerning these beliefs and values, but not so much to see how they can be kept, but rather it’s to see now many can be eliminated.
Christians in our society are also saying that it isn’t necessary to go to church, to tithe, to get baptized, or to actively witness, saying, “My life is my witness.” It’s gotten to the point where some who call themselves Christians believe that confession is not essential to living a Christian life, or to salvation. Christianity for many is a fire insurance policy, a guarantee, if you would, against hell.
But the Bible knows of no such faith. The Bible teaches us to discover God’s will and then do it. It involves finding out what the Bible says, and then living our lives in accordance to God’s word, not according to our wishes or desires.
What you might say is that Christianity is in danger of becoming wrongly defined.
Let me give an illustration of what I mean by being wrongly defined.
On a test a teacher asked, “What is a lobster?” One student wrote, “The lobster is a red fish that moves backwards.” The teacher wrote in the margin. “A very good answer, but for three exceptions: In the first place, the lobster isn’t a fish; in the second place, it is not red, and in the third place, it doesn’t move backwards. Aside from these little mistakes you answer may stand.”
So, what is Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian?
Well, it’s to live a Christ-like life because Christ lives in us, and it’s where His will becomes our own. The Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it’s God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
It’s unthinkable, therefore, that someone who calls themselves a disciple of Christ, should ever be a secret disciple, and Jesus makes this perfectly clear saying,
Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God (Luke 12:8-9 NKJV)
And this not only applies when we come to faith, but also it applies to our lives as Christians.
In our time together, I’d like us to consider this proposition. First, confessing Christ is a reasonable requirement. Second, it is an essential fact, and third, it is an absolute demand.
The Apostle Paul said,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1 NKJV)
When we come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we are to offer up the whole of ourselves in the same way we are to love the Lord with the whole of our being, which is brought out in the Great Commandment.
But to do so we are to separate ourselves from the ways of the world and be totally sold out for Christ, which is what the word “holy” means, and which Paul says is our reasonable service.
So what does “reasonable service” mean to us?
It’s Reasonable to Share Good News
This entails our confession in everyday life situations.
When we sit in a courtroom and are called upon to testify, we raise our right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then we ask for God to help us in this endeavor by saying, “So help us God.”
Therefore, shouldn’t we do the same for God? Just as the truth in a court of law is in society’s best interest, so then is the knowledge of humanity’s Savior, and His plan of redemption.
Could you imagine what our world would be like if Alexander Fleming had kept his discovery of penicillin a secret. His discovery began the modern age of antibiotics saving millions of lives.
Yet what is this discovery compared to the truth of the gospel message. Penicillin may save millions, but Jesus Christ can save everyone.
We have got a great story to tell, and so if a person chooses to be a secret disciple and not make an open confession, then this may very well mean that they may not be a disciple at all. How can we who have tasted and partaken of God’s wondrous love, how can we say nothing at all?
Consider a story from the Old Testament. The Syrians had besieged the city of Samaria causing a great famine to occur within the city. Outside of the city gates sat four lepers who said,
“If we enter the city we’ll die of famine, and if we stay here we’ll die as well, might as well surrender to the enemy, if they keep us we’ll be alive, and if they kill us we’ll only die a little bit sooner.” (2 Kings 7:4 paraphrased)
So they went toward the Syrian camp, only to find it empty. God had caused the Syrians to hear a noise that sounded like a great army was coming to attack them in the night, and so they fled in haste, leaving everything behind.
So, these four lepers found a smorgasbord of goodies, not to mention riches. After eating their fill and taking what they wanted, their consciousness got the better of them and they realize that it wasn’t right to keep this a secret from those who were starving to death in Jerusalem.
“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kings 7:9-10 NKJV)
So they came to the city walls and shouted out the good news. Therefore should we who have the good news of salvation be silent about it when so many are dying of spiritual starvation?
It’s Reasonable Because Christ Desires It
It’s hard as a parent to never hear our children acknowledge that relationship, and most of us have experienced this when our children hit that age of trying to be cool.
I remember when Danielle was around 15 years old. She and her friend visited me while I was in seminary. We went over to the Balboa Pier where I was asked to walk far enough behind them that people wouldn’t know that they were with me.
I see a similar example of a lack of appreciation for Christ in the New Testament.
There were ten lepers outside the city of Samaria when Jesus was passing through on His way to Jerusalem. Being lepers they weren’t permitted to approach others, so they stood at a distance and cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus then told them to go to the priest and get checked out and then to pronounced that they were indeed healed and cleansed. On their way to the priests they were healed, but only one returned to thank Jesus.
“When he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’” (Luke 17:15-17 NKJV)
How grateful are we? If Jesus has indeed healed and saved us isn’t it reasonable to confess Him? And so Jesus is asking us the same question, “Were you not healed and made clean? Where are you now? Are you giving glory to God by telling others?”
It’s Reasonable Because It’s Natural
The Bible says,
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” (Psalm 107:2 NKJV)
When Peter and John entered the Gate Beautiful, they came across a man who was lame since birth. When he asked them for some money, Peter looked down upon him and said, ‘Silver and gold I don’t have, but what I do have I will give unto you, rise and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Peter them lifted him up and immediately strength came to his legs and feet. And it says he stood up and entered the temple walking, and leaping, and praising God. (Acts 3:8)
It just isn’t natural not to thank God, and it would have been less than grateful if this man took any other course of action other than praising God.
As Jesus was entering Jerusalem a week prior to His death and resurrection, it says that the people were laying out palm branches and garments before him shouting, “Praise the Lord, blessed is His who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:38)
When the religious leaders heard the people praise Jesus they told Jesus to rebuke his followers for saying such things. But Jesus said, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).
I don’t know how we as believers in Jesus Christ cannot express our gratitude and praise for what Jesus has done in our lives.
Now, besides it being a reasonable requirement, confessing Jesus openly can also be considered
Again, I go back to our verse in Romans where Paul says that we are to offer up ourselves as those living sacrifices, which is our reasonable service.
The word ‘service’ that Paul uses is talking about our service to God. So, in that regard it is essential act.
Again let’s take a moment and look at why it’s essential?
It’s Essential Because it Protects
To be a secret disciple is not a safe place to be, because it makes the person subject to Satan’s manipulations. It brings guilt, embarrassment, and condemnation.
But when we make that public declaration to family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, it keeps us, basically, on the straight and narrow. It helps keep our feet from slipping and straying.
Knowing that at any time or at any moment I might see or meet somebody when I want to do something that I know is wrong, has kept me from doing a lot of stupid stuff, because I don’t want to be called a hypocrite and bring shame on my God through my inappropriate actions.
When we make that open confession then we will be more likely to follow God’s word and will for our lives and we’ll be less likely to gratify our desires at God’s expense.
It’s Essential to Loving Others
People never seek out secret disciples if they are looking for the meaning of life. People who are sick and dying never send for a secret disciple to tell them about eternal life.
There’s a story about a woman who at church asked the congregation to pray for her unconverted husband. At the close of the service her brother came forward to openly confess his belief in Jesus Christ.
He said, “For 20 years I have secretly loved and sought to serve the Lord. Today I am ashamed of my cowardice and I want to come out openly and take my place in the church.”
Next week, the woman’s husband came to the church and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
He then said to his brother-in-law. “You have been a stumbling block to me, and almost sent me to hell. You have lived a beautiful life before me outside of the church, and as far as I knew, without Christ. And I thought that if you, without Christ, could live such a life, then so could I. Your deception nearly cost me my soul.”
For those who say their life is their witness, it’s like saying they can live like a Christian without being one to those that are around them, and it’s leading their family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors down the wide road that leads to hell.
In essence being a secret disciple is a violation of the Great Commandment to love God with the whole of who we are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And finally, openly confessing Jesus is not only a reasonable requirement and an essential act, but it’s also
Jesus declaration of the need to make an open confession is a command. We see this in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome when he said,
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
Listen again to what Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8 NKJV)
Jesus said that it’s out of the abundance of our hearts that we speak. (Matthew 12:34) And so, when the heart is filled with Jesus, then it’s only natural that we let everyone know it. But if the heart isn’t filled with Jesus, that’s when we really have nothing to say. In the above verse Paul finished his thought saying, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).
Now consider the rest of what Jesus said in our signature verse, “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:9 NKJV)
When I think about what Christians in other countries go through for their faith and testimony in Jesus Christ, including isolation, torture, brutality, prison, and even death, where being a secret disciple would be the wise thing to do; they will have none of it.
And then I look at those of us who live in a free country and have the right of free speech, and where there is still freedom of religion, and we say nothing?
In America there is no place for secret discipleship. To not publicly live for Jesus because someone might make fun of us, or think of us as being narrow-minded, it shows how little we care for God’s glory and how much we care for our own pleasures and reputations.
What can we do? Well, since Easter is coming up, all of us have the great privilege of inviting our family, friends, and coworkers to hear the great news of Jesus Christ, how He died for our sins, and then rose from the dead the third day.
We’re calling our Easter message “The World’s Greatest Comeback.” Everyone loves a good comeback story, and so this is a great opportunity for people to hear the greatest comeback story of all time.
And so to help us fulfill what we say, “Each One Reach One,” we’re asking if you would take one or more Easter invitations, pray over them and about who God would want you to invite, and share it with them. Let’s be intentional in our discipleship, and invite everyone that we can to hear this great story of God’s great love.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study