August 4, 2002

Disciples Who Make Disciples

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: John Scripture: John 1:35–51


Disciples Who Make Disciples

John 1:35-51
Sunday, August 4, 2002  
Pastor Randy Smith

Yesterday morning the Green Bay Packers suffered one of their most humiliating defeats. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi was faced with a difficult challenge as he approached the men during Monday's practice. The team knew their performance on the field was atrocious. They knew the game plan wasn't followed. They knew specifically what they needed to correct, but nevertheless, they were frustrated, disappointed and angry.

What was the coach to say? In his remarkable manner Lombardi met the challenge head-on. Picking up the familiar oblong, leather ball, he went directly to the heart of the matter. Deliberately he brought everyone's attention back to the basics with 5 simple words: "Men, this is a football."

The same challenge often lies before the church today. Workers are exhausted, people are misdirected and progress is limited. Despite our numerous programs, our technological advances and marketing strategies, the church has become weaker, simply because the people in the pews are without purpose and direction. We must get back to the basics. What is the purpose of the church? "Men, this is a football."

Imagine the first disciples after Christ's earthly ascension. They had only spent 3-1/2 years with their Master, and now He was gone. Now what? What are we supposed to do? How do we begin? How do we continue now that Jesus is gone?

Fortunately Jesus, the finest leader who ever lived, left His disciples trained with a battle plan ready to be implemented. He gave them a purpose, a purpose which still stands today for those who claim to be disciples of Christ and members of His church.

In possibly His final words on earth He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:19-20). Today we call it the Great Commission, and the Great Commission gives purpose to all that we do in this institution.

Contrary to popular teaching, there is only one command in this commission: "Make Disciples!" The mandate to make disciples is encompassed by winning people to Christ, building them in their faith and then equipping them to share their faith with others. The process is the formula for sustaining and multiplying the Christian community. It's simple, it's basic and it's the purpose of the church. Everything we do must seek to fulfill the mandate to make disciples.

A disciple is literally a follower, a pupil, a learner, or an apprentice. In the Christian sense, he is one who has decided to not only follow his Master, but also to become like Him. Discipleship is not simply for those who are committed in their faith; it is for all who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Master. As Christians, we are all called to be committed to the ministry of discipleship, both in being discipled and in discipling others.

Simply put, a true discipleship ministry consists of winning people to the Savior, building them up in their faith and equipping them to win and build up others. Jesus Christ wants His children to be mature disciples themselves. He wants them to emulate His character and walk in the same manner He walked (1 Jn. 2:6). Jesus Christ wants His children to pursue Him completely and passionately. But Jesus Christ also wants His children to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, etc. That is our commission; that is our purpose; that is why we exist.

It's clear that Jesus taught this grand strategy to the church, but in analyzing His methodology, it's also clear that He implemented the strategies He advocated. His actions were always determined by His purpose to make disciples.

Long before Jesus ever appointed the 12 apostles, He devoted Himself to building a foundation for the church that would support significant growth. During this first phase of disciple making, His challenge to men was "Follow Me," "Come and see," or "Believe in my Name." In the second phase , Jesus equipped a few to multiply the ministry. He spent the majority of His time reproducing Himself in these men. Once these disciples were equipped, Jesus entered the third phase of His ministry. With the help of these trained disciples, He reached out to the masses. He wanted these trained disciples firsthand to experience the deep joy in a lifelong conviction and commitment to the Great Commission lifestyle. Finally, in the fourth phase , Jesus appointed the 12 to be apostles, pastors who could continue in His earthly in His absence. All in all, Jesus sought to initiate a process that would produce committed disciples equipped to reach and disciple others who would continue to multiply this cycle until His return

The book of John closes with a statement that parallels Matthew's Great Commission. "Jesus therefore said to them again…'as the Father has sent Me, I also send you'" (Jn. 20: 21). The four steps of His discipleship model had been completed, and it was now time for His followers to implement His strategy for themselves. That's how Christ's discipleship ended in the gospel accounts, but this morning we'll examine how it began. We'll take a look at phase one.

Up to now in the book of John we have been studying the preparation for the Messiah in the ministry of John the Baptist. Now, the Lamb of God has appeared on the scene. He wastes no time implementing the first phase of His masterful plan, a plan that would eventually produce the largest spiritual following in the world.

This morning we'll start with John the Baptist and then proceed to 5 men who became some of Christ's earliest disciples. We will examine the first phase of discipleship as these men sought to fulfill the purpose of the church.

1. JOHN THE BAPTIST (1:35-36)

Verse 35, "Again the next day John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God" (Jn. 1:35-36).

You'll recall that the Baptist had a tremendous following. It was an influence so extensive on the crowds that the Jews were forced to send a delegation of Priests and Levites to investigate his ministry. John, according to Jesus Himself, was a great man. His greatness was based on his humility and desire to prepare the way for the Messiah. In his greatness he led others to pursue the One who was Greater. When the Messiah appeared, center stage shifted and he eagerly directed his disciples to Christ. John's purpose in life, "He must increase, but I must decrease." John was a true disciple committed to a Great Commission lifestyle. And true disciplers committed to a Great Commission lifestyle point others to Christ and not themselves.

2. ANDREW AND JOHN (1:37-39)

The Baptist's ministry was successful. In verse 37 we read that "the two disciples (we know one was Andrew from verse 40, I believe the other was John the writer of this gospel) heard him speak, and they followed Jesus." Not only did these two men immediately leave the Baptist's side and pursue Jesus in a literal sense, but the tense of the verb also suggests they took the first steps in becoming lifelong disciples themselves. Now realize, both John and Andrew did not abandon the Baptist; rather they fulfilled his teaching and followed the "Lamb of God" as they were directed.

Verse 38, "And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' And they said to Him, 'Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?' I believe the disciples' response as John records it really captures the excitement of the encounter. Jesus in His masterful way seeks to probe these men with a question. "What do you seek?" But how could any human being when first confronted with the Messiah face-to-face answer a question like that, especially if they were asked to confine in into a sentence or two! These men were speechless! They didn't know where to start! Mere words could not encapsulate what must have been going through their hearts! So instead of answering His question, they responded with a question of their own, "Where are you staying!" In the modern vernacular, "Get the coffee brewing Jesus, because it's going to be a long night!"

Jesus complied. Verse 39, "He said to them, 'Come, and you will see.' They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour." The tenth hour was 4:00 in the afternoon, the time when most men leave their work for the day. Odds are that their discussion went well into the wee hours of the morning. What a blessing, an interview with God!

And even though He was God, Jesus made time for these men. A true discipler knows that meaningful discipleship is more than a few brief encounters. It's life on life ministry. It's spending quantity time with people, so that they can be instructed not only by your words, but also by your actions.

Along these lines, I'm thankful for the dozen or so godly men who have poured their lives into mine over the past 10 years. Though I probably drove them nuts, they always made me a priority. They persevered to make a costly investment of their time and energies into my life for the sake of the kingdom. They encouraged me, they rebuked me, they corrected me, they challenged me, they trained me and most of all they modeled godliness before my very eyes. Simply put, they discipled me.

Grace Tabernacle, I encourage you to esteem godliness. Appreciate those who are serious about their walk with the Lord. Extol God's work in their lives and seek to emulate their lifestyle. Pick a couple individuals and spend time with these people! It doesn't have to be a formal Bible study; more can often be learned as you observe their responses to the daily encounters of life. Watch them relate to their spouses and children, listen to the essence of their conversations, observe how they deal with trials and setbacks, look for the absence of worldliness in their actions, discern their priorities, glean their spiritual wisdom and biblical intuitiveness, study their motivation for living and scrutinize the source of their joy.

Beloved, we all have heroes. Don't choose yours from the world…choose yours from the church. I encourage you to get some heroes you can follow up close from the Christian community. Get some people that you can simply spend time with. Get some people you can watch and observe and follow. Paul said, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). Elsewhere he said, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me , practice these things" (Phil. 4:9). The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers to "not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:12).

Respect those who are pursuing Christ as their ultimate goal. Don't mock them or resent them, but encourage them and follow them! And from these few individuals, find one person willing to disciple you. And for your part, find one person you can disciple yourself. Remember, this is your mandate in fulfilling the purpose of the church!

People often ask me how I structure my personal ministry of discipling others. I try to base it on the ministry of Jesus Christ. You will recall that He ministered to the multitudes. Of the multitudes, He had a special affiliation with 70. Of the 70, He spent the most time with His 12 apostles. Even amongst the 12, He even had an inner circle of 3 who were privy to conversations and occasions where the others were excluded. Likewise, I have an overarching responsibility to disciple this church. However, due to my physical limitations, most of that discipling comes from the pulpit. I do spend more time with the men, simply because any impact in their lives will overflow to their families through their role as a leader in the home. Additionally, for the sake of purity and Titus 2 instructions, women should be discipled by other women. Of all the men, the deacons will receive more time, but primarily the 2 elders receive the bulk of my personal time. I wish to entrust myself to these faithful men so that they will be able to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). The average person if he or she seeks to be effective, can only disciple 2-3 people at one time. Finally, in regards to discipleship, my wife and children are my primary responsibility. For the Scriptures are clear, I will give an account as to how I lead my family.

3. SIMON (1:40-42)

Let us return to our text. What a glorious evening John and Andrew must have had with Jesus. Like the men on the road to Emmaus, their hearts must have been burning within them. Nothing could contain their excitement. They couldn't keep this encounter to themselves! They had been given life! And one indication of life is a desire to reproduce, to increase their joy by sharing the good news with others. This should be our desire. To allow ourselves to be filled up with Jesus so it spills over into the lives of others. To make more disciples!

Verse 40, " One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah.' (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)" (Jn. 1:40-42).

Andrew truly was a remarkable man. He was one of the first to come to Christ. He led his brother Simon Peter to Christ. But still in the gospel accounts Andrew is always known as "Simon Peter's brother." And when Jesus chose the inner 3 from the 12 to be His closest disciples, He selected brothers James and John, but the other brotherhood was divided. Simon Peter was admitted. Andrew was excluded. But Andrew was not sidelined; he didn't form a "pity party." He didn't quit going to church, nor did he resent Jesus. He simply kept on winning people to Christ as the other accounts testify where his name occurs in this gospel.

Also note that Andrew wasted no time in witnessing. Most commentators believe it was the day after his encounter with Jesus! And of all the people in the world, look who he approached first. His brother! CH Spurgeon once observed that although grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood or of birth, yet it often happens that God uses one of a household to draw the rest to Himself. Beloved, those who are closest to us form our best mission field. They are the ones who observe our daily conduct. They are the ones who can witness the change in our lives. They are the ones who can observe the highest priority in our lives. There can be no doubt that our greatest opportunity and responsibility to share should be amongst our friends and the members of our own household. You wouldn't believe the many would-be missionaries I have spoken with who want to win a continent for Christ, but have yet to share the gospel with their siblings or next door neighbor.

4. PHILIP (1:43-44)

Andrew wasn't done. Verse 43 says, "The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." Although the NIV translators take much liberty to translate the "he"-Jesus, I believe the context best represents Andrew's continued evangelistic efforts. First he reached out to his brother, Peter, and then verse 43 says, "He purposed to forth into Galilee (to find) Philip." According to the verse, Jesus then saw Philip and simply said, "Follow Me." The verb is in the present tense, literally it means, "Keep on following Me." Commit yourself, Philip, to a life of discipleship.

5. NATHANAEL (1:45-51)

As of now we have seen John the Baptist leading John and Andrew to Christ. Then we saw Andrew lead both Simon and Philip to Christ. And now finally we'll see Philip lead Nathanael to Christ.

Verse 45, "Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.' And Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!' Nathanael said to Him, 'How do You know me?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.' And He said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man'" (Jn. 1:45-51).

Time prohibits me from giving an exposition on these rich verses, but in light of our topic this morning, I want you to hone in on 3 words in verse 46, "Come and see." Philip in attempting to win Nathanael to Christ was not about to get sidetracked by some meaningless debate. He did not wish to argue with his friend, rather he held forth Jesus to the skeptic and said, "Come and see." Jesus Christ isn't looking for salesmen who can sweet-talk or exaggerate the worth of the product. He doesn't need our clever techniques or persuasive arguments. He simply wants unbelievers to experience Him, to taste and see that He is good, to find one's satisfaction and love-need met in His intimate presence. Jesus Christ is able to meet the longings of every human heart, if people will only, "Come and see."

"When he is onstage, Springsteen says, he sometimes feels like a preacher, and on the last E Street Band tour, he did a mock monologue in a fire-and-brimstone voice about the power of music. 'It was one of those things that was joking but serious at the same time,' he says. Springsteen is a lapsed Catholic, but whether he is telling Scialfa that he wants her backup vocals to be 'more gospel' or asking his listeners to 'come on up for The Rising,' he understands that spiritual revival is a necessity and that it has to be a communal experience. 'I think that fits in with the concept of our band as a group of witnesses,' he says. 'That's one of our functions. We're here to testify to what we have seen.' And to hear the testimony of others." (Time Magazine, 7/02)

Listen. There is only one gospel, only one communion and only one witness. John the Baptist came as a witness to testify of what he saw. He came for the purpose of identifying Jesus so that all may believe in His name. From John came 5 new witnesses in our account who heard the testimony of others and followed the same pattern as the Baptist of making disciples. They discovered the infinite joy in knowing Jesus, and then from the overflow of their hearts willingly shared that message with others. They fulfilled the purpose of the church to make disciple who make disciples.

As we transition to communion, beloved, allow me to ask you a few questions of application pertaining to this message. Allow the Spirit to search your heart.

  1. Are you committed to a Great Commission lifestyle? Do you understand the mandate to make disciples?
  2. Are you committed to the ultimate purpose of this church which is to make disciples? Are you personally helping or hindering our goal? Are you able to overlook your personal preferences so our corporate energies can be maximized on winning the lost and equipping the saints?
  3. Are you seeking to disciple others? Men, are you discipling your wife and children? Women, are you discipling your children? Can you point to one person, beside an immediate family member that you are discipling? Does your lifestyle give a model for others to emulate and praise God?
  4. Are you being discipled? Do you esteem and appreciate godly people? Do you have any godly people in your life whom you can emulate and follow as they follow Christ?
  5. Are you secure in you own salvation? Do you have enough confidence in your own assurance so that your focus can be directed toward others?
  6. Are you surrendered to God? Have you yielded your entire life to Him? Are you a "living sacrifice" laid out upon the altar for His glory? Do you realize you have been redeemed with a great price and are now to be a "slave of Jesus Christ?"
  7. Is it your joy to share the gospel and see others converted?
  8. Do you spend time with God daily in prayer and Bible reading? Are you engaged in regular fellowship with the saints? Are you taking full advantage of the ministries of this church? Are you allowing yourself to be filled with the Spirit whereas your actions are simply an overflow of your heart?
  9. Are you committed to a diligent and disciplined lifestyle? Will you be rebuked by the Lord as the one who hid his talent in the ground? Do you view the people that the Lord brings your way as an opportunity or as a burden?
  10. Is your life characterized by love?

other sermons in this series

May 9


The Priority of A Disciple

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:18–25 Series: John

May 2


From Fishermen To Shepherds

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:15–17 Series: John

Apr 25


Fishing For Men

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:1–14 Series: John