Motivations for Discipleship
December 2, 2013 Leave a comment
This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry‘s Disciple Now event on Friday, October 25, 2013.
Key Text: Colossians 3:1-13
Each follower of Christ, no matter how young or old, needs to take up his cross daily and pursue Jesus. Most Christians know that they need discipleship, but how do we get motivated to be and make disciples?
Apathy is a growing problem in America. The combination of economic and societal changes with an increased “busyness” has left many without the drive necessary to pursue bigger and better things. In 2011, the motivational market hit $11 billion in revenue. The average motivational speaker gets paid $4000-5000 per speaking event, with some commanding fees in excess of $100,000 per engagement.
Christians aren’t immune to apathy. In fact, one of the largest problems in the church today is biblical illiteracy stemming from believers not reading Scripture for themselves. Even fewer share the gospel or form discipleship relationships with other believers.
Motivations for Discipleship
To overcome this tendency towards apathy, here are 6 motivations for discipleship from Colossians 3:1-13:
- We are dead to sin and given a new life in Christ (v 1-3)
The correct mindset is essential to the discipleship journey. That’s why Paul begins this section encouraging us to “seek the things that are above” and “set your minds on things that are above.” When we are saved, our focus is changed. Before Christ raised us, we are consumed with gaining more wealth, power, and pleasure. However, after we have died to sin and been raised with Christ, the goal of our life is completely changed. Instead of seeking our glory, our aim is to glorify God. This is our new life purpose. Discipleship is the means to accomplishing this goal. The more we learn about the one who has hidden our life with himself, the more satisfied we are. The more satisfied we are in him, the more glorified he is in us.
- We have a certain hope of glory with Christ (v 4)
In addition to the new life we’ve been given, discipleship is motivated by future glory with Christ. Now we face trials, difficulties, and struggles. This is to be expected. As Jesus said in John 17:14-15: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Though life on earth has its share of suffering, the promise of future glory motivates disciples to endure temporary discomfort. READ HEBREWS 10:32-39
- We deserve God’s wrath because of our sin (v 5-8)
As we look forward to this future glory, we must remember that we are currently at war. Paul makes that very clear by telling us to “put to death” our sin. Notice Paul doesn’t say “suppress sin” or “get sin under control.” God wants us to actively and vigorously kill it. The process of discipleship helps us to identify and war against the sin in our lives. Like God commanded the Israelites to wipe out entire people groups as they were conquering the Promised Land, we are commanded to completely destroy the sin that reigns in our life. Anything short of extermination is a dangerous compromise. We cannot look back to the sinful desires we once enjoyed, lest we become like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:15-17, 23-26). Like her, we were once living in our sin. However, when she was told to leave it all behind, she didn’t take her sin or God’s hate for it seriously and chose her earthly desires over the salvation offered to her if she would turn in faith and flee. As a result, God’s just wrath was shown against her sin and she was punished. The same call is offered to us today: turn from the sin God hates and put it to death, resulting in new life in Christ, or remain in our sin and endure the just punishment for it.
- We have a new nature in Christ (v 9-11)
Disciples of Christ have been given a new nature with new desires. The imagery Paul uses here is that of taking off a muddy, sweaty, dirty shirt and putting on a clean one. A change in identity has occurred. The ongoing discipleship process brings our behaviors into line with this new identity that we have in Christ. This new identity isn’t rooted in cultural, economic, or legal distinctions, but in the person and work of Jesus Christ (see also Galatians 3:27-29).
- We have been saved by God’s electing love (v 12)
All Christians have been chosen by God to be the heirs of salvation. God could have justly left every single person to face the eternal consequences of their sins; however, he showed mercy to some in order that they might be redeemed. Talk about motivation! As those who have been adopted as sons of God, we are to pursue him wholeheartedly, seeking to know and honor our Savior while making him known to everyone around us.
- We have been forgiven of our sins (v 13)
The final motivation for discipleship found in this passage is the forgiveness we have been offered. As we grow in our relationship, we realize what an enormous debt we have been forgiven of by our Father. Like the king in Matthew 18:21-35, God has paid the wages of sin on our behalf in order that we might be freed to pursue him. This realization enables us to be patient with our friends and family and point them to Christ and the forgiveness found only in him.
As you consider what it means to be a disciple, keep these six motivations in mind. Notice that unlike the majority of motivational speakers, Scripture motivates us with what Christ has done for us rather than on our own performance. That is what sets the gospel apart from any other news that has ever been shared: false gospels proclaim “This must be done!” while the gospel declares “It is finished!”
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
[image credit: Bjorn Utecht on Flickr]