Prepare For Discipleship

Acts 2:42

General Douglas MacArthur's father, Arthur MacArthur, was also a military officer.
Therefore, Douglas MacArthur spent his growing up years at various military bases.
He did not have the opportunity of sustained schooling for his high school education.

When he got ready to take the competitive examinations for an appointment to West Point,
he went to Milwaukee and entered high school.
He also established a rigid study schedule to prepare him for the exams.

In his autobiography, Reminiscences, he said: "When the marks were counted, I led.
My careful preparation had prepared me.
It was a lesson I never forgot.
Preparedness is the key to success and victory
."

This is a good lesson for each of us to learn.
Preparation is truly a key to success and victory in almost every area of life.
We expect our teachers to be prepared.
We would not consider going to a physician who had not been adequately prepared
and experienced.

So, we must prepare ourselves for life.
Schooling is preparation.
In making decisions, we try to get the background, research the problem, and understand
as much as we can about the alternatives and the outcomes as possible.
This is preparation.

We must prepare for marriage and a family.
We prepare for a family trips.
We prepare for our life's work.
We know that nothing happens simply by chance.
Preparation is essential in every area of life.

If that is true, why do we spend so little time and effort in preparation for discipleship?
Discipleship begins when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour.
Discipleship continues throughout our Christian life.
Discipleship is not one of our options as a Christian.
We cannot decide whether we will be a disciple.
We can only decide what kind of disciple we will be.

In the 17th century a man named Thomas Hobson rented horses in Cambridge, England.
Hobson had a rule that anyone who rented one of his horses had to take
the horse nearest the door.
It did not matter what a person's rank, status, or income was.
It did not matter what his personal choice for a horse might be.
If anyone rented a horse from Thomas Hobson, he had to take the horse
nearest the door.
Soon that came to be known as Hobson's Choice.
Hobson's Choice was no choice at all.

And that is true with Christian discipleship.
We have no choice about whether we will be disciples when we become Christians.
Our only choice has to do with what kind of disciple we will be -- good or bad.
This makes the preparation for discipleship very important.

So, let us look at what is involved in preparation for discipleship.
And let us look at some of the earliest disciples.
Remember that 3000 became followers of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost
when Simon Peter preached.
Probably, some of these followers had some exposure to Jesus and to His teachings.
But more than likely a large number of them had no previous experience with Jesus.

In reading the Book of Acts we assume that many of these followers were Jews
for who had come from around the Mediterranean world to observe the Passover.
These followers would need some preparation for discipleship.
There are verses in Acts that that give us some indication of this preparation.

First, we learn that they became a part of the young church:
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized;
and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls
." (Acts 2: 41)

Then, notice what followed:
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship,
and in breaking of bread, and in prayers
." (Acts 2: 42)

The same elements are present when we prepare for discipleship.
If we want to have success and victory, growth and development, mission and ministry,
we will need to prepare for discipleship as we prepare for other areas of life.

Discipleship begins with a willing heart.

Implicit in the whole matter of discipleship is receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
We must be willing to give ourselves to Him in faith and commitment.
Our heart must be willing before we can become the disciples we must be.
When Jesus began to gather the people around Him who would become the nucleus
of His ministry, they heard Him say, "Follow me!" (Mark 1: 17)
And they followed Him!
They had willing hearts.
They were willing to follow Jesus.

The willing heart is where we always began with God.
God wants us to be willing.
That is where discipleship begins.
And that is where the preparation discipleship begins.

But this submission of the will to the Lord is not simply a onetime matter.
Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.
The willing heart is always willing to follow Christ, and to learn more about Him,
and to seek His will.
When we become a disciple of Jesus Christ, we transfer our allegiance to Him.

For most of us our allegiance was based on ourselves and our own desires
and our own ambitions and our own initiatives and our own goals.
But when we received Christ as our Saviour and Lord, we transferred our allegiance to Him.
There was a willingness to die to self and to live for Him.

Preparation for discipleship also involve a willing head.
Whenever we become a Christian, we do not park our mind at the door of the church building.
God's Word tells us that we are to "Love the Lord thy God... with thy mind." (Matthew 22:37)
Our minds must be active in loving and serving God.

Those earliest disciples "devoted themselves to the apostles teaching." (Acts 2: 42)
They were taught the meaning for discipleship with Jesus.
They were taught how to apply the teachings of Jesus.

Growth is a condition of discipleship.
If a disciple is a learner, then growth is implied in the very definition of the word.
The saddest situations are those in which grow never occurs...
Growth is expected of every disciple of Jesus Christ.
When a person has been a Christian for many years, and still has not grown
or developed beyond those opening stages, then something is wrong.

There are some things that a Christian can do to help himself or herself grow.
These are means of growth that are basic.
We never outgrowth them.
Occasionally, we go on some tangent of development only to realize
that we are way off and must come back to basics.
Like the compass needle that always points to the north, we must always
focus on the basic means of Christian growth.
They are mentioned in the experience of these early believers.

One is Bible study.
We cannot grow as Christians without studying the Bible.
The Bible is our roadmap to life.
If it is going to guide us in life, we must read it and study it, and let it guide us.
Even the best map cannot guide us if we ignore it.

Our churches must have a Bible study for all ages.
We will never outgrow our need for the Bible.
Every Christian must have a regular time to study God's Word.
It may be systematically reading the Bible through from cover to cover.
It may be a topical study of various subjects in the Bible.
It may be following a simple guide to Bible study.
But whatever method is used, it is important that every Christian study God's word.

Another is doctrine.
The apostles' teaching also included doctrine.
We are in dire of a greater doctrinal understanding.
It is true that the person who does not stand for something will fall for anything.
One reason that so many sincere Christians who fall for far-out beliefs, cults,
and other such movements is that they simply do not have a doctrinal foundation.

When a new building is constructed, much time and effort is taken with the foundation.
The foundation is essential.
Without a foundation the whole building will crumble.
The exterior of the building might be very appealing.
The interior might be tastefully decorated.
But without a strong foundation there is no lasting building -- it will crumble.
When there is little foundation of Christian doctrine the commitments of many
Christians will also crumble.

The early disciples also continued in the apostles' fellowship.
We do not live alone.
There is no such thing as a solitary religion.
We need the fellowship of one another.
We need the strength we can derive from one another.
We need the witness of one another.
It was the custom of Jesus to attend worship services regularly.
If the Saviour Himself needed that kind of fellowship with believers, then we need it
even more.

Prayer was an important pattern of the early disciples.
We will never outgrow the need the prayer.
Prayer must be a part of our lives as we express our praise, our needs, and our gratitude
to God.
Prayer is also a part of the listening process as God speaks to us.
Prayer is not simply the last refuge as we turn to God when all else has failed.
Prayer must be the daily communion of the believer with the Saviour.

All these means of Christian growth are significant, and they are all things of which
we are aware.
It is the matter of doing them, and of getting with it.
We can never grow in these ways and through these means unless we start
practicing them.

Many years ago inscribed on many soft drink bottles were the words,
"No deposit, No return."
This is so true.
Without any deposit there cannot be any return.
Many Christians are not getting any return because they are not making any deposit.

At the beginning of this message we stated that a willing head is a part of the preparation
for discipleship.
A willing hand is also an important part of discipleship.
Serving is always a part of Christian discipleship.
With these new believers in acts 2 we notice that they had all things in common.
Each of them was so willing to participate in the life and needs of the others
that they did not consider their possessions their own.
They willingly sold their things -- either a personal or real property -- in order to help the others.

Deception and discrimination entered in, and this form of serving was abandoned.
But the need of Christian service was not abandon.
The need of sharing with others what we can -- both ourselves and our goods -- with others
is something that we must do.

There are many ways in which we can do this.
One way is that of missions.
As Christians we are always on mission.
There is never a time when a Christian is off duty.
Our duty is always to be on mission for our Saviour.

This demands that we be very sensitive to others and to their needs.
We must be observant about the ways that we can help others.

Frank Lauback, a missionary wrote, "It would be better for us to throw away 99 percent
of our learning and of our dangled philosophy and stick to just one simple thing
in our daily life, and that is to keep asking God, 'Who needs me next, Father
?' "

Every one of us, as Christians, must think in terms of ministry.
The ministry that we provide to others is also providing to Jesus according to His words
in Matthew 25.
Ministry does not have to be spectacular -- in fact, in most instances -- it isn't spectacular.
But ministry must be done in the name of Jesus and for the good of others.

Witnessing is a part of our Christian service.
Having been forgiven of our sins by the Saviour, we must have a compulsion to witness
to others about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and what He can do for them.
Much witnessing is incidental and not well-planned or structured.

In his book, Angels: God Secret Agents, Billy Graham told the story of John Harper's last convert.
John Harper was a passenger on the Titanic.

Weighing 46,000 tons, that great ship was considered unsinkable.
On the night of April 14, 1912, while cruising through the ocean at 22 knots, it struck an iceberg.
Because it did not carry enough life preservers or lifeboats, 1513 people drowned when it sank.

John Harper was on his way to Chicago to preach at the Moody Church.
Trying to stay afloat in the ocean he drifted toward a young man holding on to a plank.
Harper called out to him, "Young man, are you saved?"
The young man answered, "No!"

A wave separated them.
After a few minutes they drafted within speaking distance of each other.
Again, Harper called to him, "Have you may your peace with God?"
The young man answered, "Not yet."

A wave overwhelmed John Harper, and he was never seen again, but the words, "Are you saved?"
kept ringing in the young man's ears.
Two weeks later a youth stood up in a Christian meeting in New York and told his story
as he said said, "I am John Harper's last convert."

This kind of witnessing -- the willingness to witness the Christ even while losing one's life,
is the witness of a faithful disciple.
It means being faithful even to the end.

Preparation is essential for discipleship.
While we willingly prepare for so many other things, we often leave the development
of our Christian discipleship entirely to chance.
This must not be!

With a willing heart to accept Christ, and a willing head to learn of him, and a willing hand
to serve him, we can daily prepare for discipleship.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White