Discipleship Then and Now
(Mark 16, John 3, Revelation 14)
Introduction: You have probably heard more than one Christian say "I want to follow Jesus." Likely, you have said that very thing. How does that work today? In Jesus' time, the disciples literally followed Him around. What are we to do today? We learned last week that the disciples' original goal in following Jesus was self-interest. It made the disciples seem more like us! In what other ways were they like us? What about rivalry among disciples? Did that exist in the time of Jesus? Let's jump into the Bible and explore how we can be a better disciple now!
- Marching Orders
- If you were to look in the Bible for instructions on how to be Jesus' disciple, would you look at what Jesus instructed the twelve disciples?
- The disciples were physically with Jesus. How would you modify your search to make it more relevant? (I would look for Jesus' instructions to them for a time when He would be gone.)
- Let's look at such an instruction. Read Mark 16:15. What are we called upon to do if we are Jesus' disciples? (To tell the whole world the good news about Jesus.)
- Would you say this was the primary work of Jesus' twelve disciples?
- We spoke about the problem of Jesus not being physically present. What was the primary work of the twelve disciples when Jesus was present with them? (Jesus was teaching them about the good news. Logically, they needed to learn the good news before they could share it.)
- Does that mean that we need to learn the "good news" before we start to preach it to the world?
- If so, is there some substitute today for the presence of Jesus? (Read John 14:25-26. The Holy Spirit teaches us today about the good news. The disciples also recorded Jesus' words to them and we can and should read and study the Bible - asking for the Holy Spirit to help us to understand.)
- Read Revelation 14:6-7. Does this mean we are out of a job? We failed to share the gospel, so angels are required to do it in the end times? (No. Two things. First, this angel is to preach the gospel "to every nation, tribe language and people." That is not a new task. That parallels the Mark 16:15 task to "preach the good news to all creation." That job was given by Jesus to His original disciples (and to us) and it is repeated in Revelation. Second, Revelation is filled with symbols. Whether the angel represents us or is a literal angel who helps us is unclear. Bottom line: this message is the task of disciples today.)
- Let's continue with Jesus' instructions recorded in Mark 16. Read Mark 16:16. After we share the good news with others, what should we look for? (A reaction! People will either believe and be baptized, or disbelieve and be condemned.)
- What does this suggest about our work as disciples? (Our role is to share. We leave the decision to the listener.)
- Is the listener alone in making this decision? (Read John 16:7-11. Again we see the important team work of the Holy Spirit when we share the good news. We share, the Holy Spirit convicts, and the listener decides.)
- Read Revelation 14:7. How does this parallel Mark 16:16? (This repeats the need for humans to make a decision because judgment is upon us.)
- Does this make our role in proclaiming a judgment clearer? ( Revelation 14:7 emphasizes the judgment side of things more than Mark 16:16. As the time of Jesus' Second Coming comes nearer, sharing the outcome of this choice makes the message more urgent.)
- What other issue is emphasized more fully in Revelation 14:7 than in Mark 16:15-16? (That Jesus is the Creator. Mark 16:15 refers to "all creation" suggesting that there is a Creator. But, Revelation 14:7 pins the basis for our worship on God's attribute as our Creator.)
- As you look around you, do you see that God's role as Creator is a more important issue in our (end) times? (Yes! The evolution/creation debate rages as never before - even among supposed Bible believers. Second, Sabbath worship is a memorial to the Creation ( Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Weekly worship is now more closely tied to the resurrection than to the Creation. This is a shift in focus away from Revelation 14.)
- Marching Signs
- Read Mark 16:17-19. The last verse shows us that these were, indeed, Jesus' final instructions. How does your church score in the signs department? How do you score?
- We have assumed that Jesus' last instructions to His disciples apply to us, too. Should we decide that part of the instructions apply and not all?
- If you think they all apply, let's look at this more closely. Is Jesus telling us to pick up deadly snakes in our hands and drink poison?
- What logical relationship would that have to sharing the gospel?
- As you consider what you have read in the Bible about the early church, do you remember reading about snake-handling and poison-drinking? (No. The account of Paul being accidentally bitten by a snake ( Acts 28:3-5) comes the closest.)
- If we do not see this in the early church, what do you think that means? (If we reason from the one example we see (Paul being accidentally bitten and not dying) it seems that Jesus is saying that as we go out and share the gospel, we may find ourselves in danger. He will protect us.)
- Should we handle dangerous snakes and drink poison to verify this promise? (No. Read Matthew 4:5-7. This seems to be an identical situation. Satan reminds Jesus of God's promises of protection, but Jesus responds that we should not deliberately put ourselves in the way of harm.)
- John and Rivalry
- Let's change gears and look at another aspect of discipleship then and now. Read John 3:22-23, 26. What complaint do the disciples of John the Baptist have about Jesus? (That the "competition" is winning. People are leaving John the Baptist and going over to Jesus.)
- Why should that worry John's disciples? (Apparently not all the disciples of John got the message that he was preparing the way for Jesus. It is natural in life to be competitive with others. They wanted their master to remain more popular than any competitors.)
- Why did John's disciples complain about Jesus baptizing? (Jesus was even "stealing" their methods! What could be more unfair?)
- Read John 3:27. Which man is John talking about? (He is talking about himself and every other person. Everyone is given gifts from God.)
- What is John's point? (There should be no competition for two reasons. First, all human gifts of talent come from God. Why would you claim credit for something given to you by someone else? Second, the amount of your gift is determined by God. If Jesus has more "gifts" then that is fine. John's disciples should not expect that he will have more gifts than are given to him by God.)
- Let's think about this a minute. What does this say about pride over our "status" in life?
- What does it say about envy? Covetousness?
- Before we go too far down this road. Does everyone use all the gifts given to them by God?
- If the answer is "no," then is it wrong to take pride in using more gifts than the slugs who are our competitors?
- If the answer is "no," then should we not feel envy when we are the slug and our "competition" applied more faith and did better work because he used more of his gifts? (Envy and covetousness are wrong. Whether we are where we are in life based on being given limited gifts from God or based our failure to take advantage of God's gifts, we cannot change the past. All we can do is take advantage of the gifts and opportunities which God gives us now and leave the outcome to God.)
- Friend, God has offered you the job of being His disciple. Will you accept it? Will you share the good news of salvation from judgment? Will you work without envy or competition?