Greg Laurie - Discipleship, The Next Step in Following Jesus
The key to the Christian life is commitment to Christ in a lifetime of growth. It's consistency. One person defined the Christian life as long obedience in the same direction. So I've tried standup paddling. How many of you have ever done standup paddling? A few of you. Not as many in Riverside. Okay, I'm just saying. But, so a lot of surfers I know who've surfed their whole life have moved over to standup. And so I've tried, but I'm not very good at it. My wife immediately was great at it. She got on the board, she's paddling, catching waves, cutting across the wave. I'm still trying to just stand on it without falling. And I've noticed that if I have a little momentum, it helps me a little bit.
So it comes down to this, stall and you fall. So if you stop, you're just gonna fall over. So you have to keep moving, right? The same could be said of the Christian life, stall and you fall. Keep growing as a believer. Being a Christian is more than just getting fire insurance, so that's pretty awesome. If all salvation was, was a promise that you'll not go to hell, it would be worth getting saved for that alone. Is that right? But it's far more than that. It's a relationship with God that lasts a lifetime and it's growing in this relationship with God as well. Not just following him as your friend or even just your Savior, but as your Lord and your God. But some people don't seem to get this. They're still in what you might describe as a baby-like state.
I love babies, they're so cute. I don't like to change their diapers, but everything else I like. And it's wonderful to watch them grow. Their first words, their first steps, everything they do is just adorable, isn't it? And that I can think of my own children and think of my grandchildren now and all of those great moments in their life. The first time a baby or really a little toddler now is beginning to eat. They feed themselves. You know, you feed them at first now they're beginning to feed themselves.
I remember the first time I gave my son, Jonathan, ice cream. He was still a baby. It wasn't the right thing to do but I did it. I didn't tell Kathy about it till later. But I can tell you this much, I took a little spoon, dipped it in some vanilla ice cream, I put it in his little baby mouth, and I'm telling you, he smiled. Jonathan, do you remember this? He loved it. Not a good idea to give a baby sugar and vanilla at that early age, but you know, this is the great moments when we watch our kids discover these things for the first time. But sometimes people never grow up. You can't stay a baby for your whole life.
When I was in school, on more than one occasion, I would have a teacher say to me, "Greg Laurie, will you just grow up"? And it's because I was always causing distractions and getting in trouble and making fun of people, et cetera. So I would say the same to all of us. It's time to grow up because some believers have never done that. When I was a kid there was a cartoon that was very popular. It was a character named Baby Huey. It was a big, giant duck in a diaper that never grew up. Sadly, some Christians are like Baby Huey. They've known the Lord for years but they've never had any spiritual maturity.
In Hebrews 6 we read, "Let's stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let's go on instead and become mature in our understanding". It is time to grow up. And this is the role of a pastor. We wanna help you grow up, we want to help you mature. It's a role of a parent. By the way, parents, you need to be parents. Your child doesn't need you to be their best friend, they need you to be their mother and their father, right? That's very important. You have to tell 'em what's right, you have to tell 'em what's wrong, you have to warn them, you have to correct them, and they don't like it. They'll fight you, they'll resist you, they'll resent you, and one day they'll thank you.
And then they'll have their kids and you will see your revenge 'cause it'll happen to them, right? But that's my job as a parent. And that's our job as older believers, is to find younger believers and help them to grow and mature. So let me tell you some things now that new believers need and I'm addressing these remarks to two groups of people.
Number one, to new believers. But I'm also addressing my remarks to older believers because this is what you need to do for younger believers. And I found a great little outline in a book called, "The Lost Art of Disciple Making" by LeRoy Eims. I recommend that book to you by the way. But he had some great points so I'm using some of his points. He pointed out, number one, the new believer needs acceptance. They need acceptance. When someone comes to Christ, they need to know that they're accepted by God. So let me say this to you. If you're a new believer, you are accepted by God. He loves you, he accepts you. In fact, the Bible even says "You've been made acceptable in the beloved".
There's nothing you need to do to earn God's favor, you have it already. And there's nothing you need to do to earn his love, you have that as well. But we need to say to new believers, we accept you, we welcome you. Because you know what? New Christians have a lot of rough edges. They haven't learned the new Christian vocabulary yet. In fact, they might have a few words left over from their old vocabulary that will pop up now and then. Be patient with them, be loving toward them. I think of how little I understood when I came to Christ. And thankfully there were people that were accepting. Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 2:8. He said, "We loved you so much. We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you'd become so dear to us".
Number two, a new believer needs assurance. They need assurance. They need to know that they're saved. Remember the devil came to Adam and Eve in the garden. And what was his first temptation? Challenging the word of God. He says, "Did God really say what you thought God said"? And that's what the devil will do with the new believer. They've accepted Christ, and Satan will whisper in their ear, "Do you really think Christ has come into your life? Do you really think after all you've done that your sin is forgiven"? So we need to assure them. And first 1 John 5 says "These things we write to you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life". They can know and we need to assure them and if you're a new believer, we want to assure you as well.
Number three, the new believer needs protection. They need protection. Paul writes to the believers in Galatia, in Galatians 4:19, "Dear children, I feel as though I'm going through labor pains for you, and they'll continue until Christ is fully developed in your life". You know, they're like babies again. And when you go to a hospital, they'll sterilize everything especially around the little babies because life is so fragile, it must be protected. New believers are vulnerable to their own emotions. They don't understand it when they had a sense of euphoria when they accepted Christ and two days later it's gone. Maybe they thought, oh, it'll always be this way but it won't. You'll have days where you don't feel anything, right?
So we need to say, "That's okay, that's normal, nothing bad has happened. You need to learn how to walk by faith, not by feeling". Because the Bible says "The just shall live by faith". New believers are also vulnerable to false teachings. We have to ground them in scripture. And old friends are gonna show up that will try to drag them down. And old girlfriends and old boyfriends will suddenly materialize and temptations they never had will suddenly appear. I remember when the Christians told me, "Greg, you're gonna be tempted by the devil". And first of all, I didn't even know there was a devil, I'd never heard of such a thing.
"Wait, there's a devil? I just heard there was Jesus". "No, there's a devil, he's gonna tempt you". I said, "How will I know when I'm being tempted"? They said, "You'll know". Okay, so I was brand new in the faith, I mean, literally days old. I had a little button on my shirt, there was a little picture of Jesus on it, I'm wearing my little Jesus button. I'm sitting in class and there was a very attractive young lady sitting toward the front of the class. I'd noticed her before but I'd never talked to her because clearly this girl would not talk with someone like me and at the end of the class she walks up to me and says, "Hi, what's your name"?
And I momentarily forgot my name. I said, "What is it? Oh, it's Greg, yes, I'm Greg". She said, "You're really cute". I thought, what? "You're really cute". I'm like, "You're talking to me"? And she said, "You know, my parents have a house up in the mountains, would you like to spend the weekend with me"? I thought, this is temptation. And as I recall, she was wearing a red dress, devil with a red dress. No, blue dress, it's blue dress. No, but you know what? It was temptation. And I'll tell you why, that never happened to me before. It's not like I had cute girls hitting on me, hard to believe as it is. I knew this literally was Satan trying to pull me down through a very attractive young lady. Thankfully I said "No" to that but that's gonna happen to a new believer. We need to warn them, you're gonna get tempted, you're gonna have people try to drag you down.
And the new believer, number four, needs fellowship. That's why we want to involve them in our lives. That's why small groups are so good. That's why we're always encouraging you to get involved in a Harvest group because some things are learned in rows and other things are learned in circles, where you're together and you can talk about it and you can ask questions and so we need to bring a new believer into the church. No one gave me any materials to read after I accepted Christ. No one gave to me a copy of "The New Believer's Bible" and said, "Hey Greg, read this". In fact, the reason I wrote the notes for this Bible was because nothing like this was available when I first came to Christ and I wanted to have something I could offer to someone that could help them grow as a brand new believer.
But there's a guy that showed up in my life and I didn't know him from Adam's house eat. And I don't know if Adam had a house cat but I guarantee he didn't have a dog that he kept in the sling but anyway. But this guy, his name is Mark, he walks up to me, "Hi, my name is Mark". I'm like, "Okay, hi". He says, "I noticed you accepted Christ at the Bible study the other day". I said, "Yeah, I did". And he said, "I wanna take you to church". I said, "Oh, that's okay, I don't wanna go to church". He goes, "No, I want you to come to church with me". "No, no thank you, thanks for asking, but no". "Yeah, where do you live"? "No, I don't wanna go to church with you". "What's your address"?
Next thing I know, I'm in his car on my way to church. And I love this guy 'cause he wouldn't take no for an answer, he was persistent in the best way possible. He takes me to Calvary Chapel and I walk smack dab into the middle of a spiritual awakening and my life started changing. See, the only Christians I knew were the ones on my high school campus. I knew nothing about the church, I knew nothing about the Bible, I knew nothing about God, I was like just a blank piece of paper. But Mark took me under his wing, effectively he was discipling me. There was no question that was too ridiculous to ask him. He modeled for me what a Christian should be. I could observe him.
I remember going over to his home, he was living with his parents we were still kids and I would have dinner with his parents and they were all Christians and we would open the Bible and they would tell me things from scripture I'd never heard before. I remember the first time they told me about the rapture. Jesus is gonna come for his church. It was so exciting to learn these things and you can be that person for someone else if you're an older believer because there are some things that are taught and there are other things that are caught. There's only so much I can do behind some pulpit. They need to see what a real living breathing Christian looks like. They need to know how does a Christian drive?
And that's exactly why I don't want a new believer around me. "Do they drive the speed limit or something close to it"? You know, what does that Christian do with their free time? How does a Christian husband treat his wife? How does a Christian wife treat her husband? How do Christian kids react to their parents? Do Christians drink? Do Christians go to movies? The answer is yes, we go see "Jesus Revolution" and some other films as well. But Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10, "You've observed my teaching and my conduct and my aim in life, which is my faith". So yeah, teaching is good, but they need to see you in the way that you live.
New believers need old believers, old believers need new believers. Having a new believer in your life can have a reviving affect on you as they discover truths for the first time, you can rediscover them. You stabilize them, they energize you. This is illustrated with spending time with children. Someone asked me in an interview recently, "What do you like to do with your free time"? And I said, "I like to eat raw lard. Is that bad"? No, I didn't say that's a joke. Okay, so no, I said, you know what? I thought about it for a moment. I said, "I like to spend time with my grandkids". I call 'em up or text 'em. "Hey, what are you doing? You want to go somewhere"? "Yeah, we want to go do this, Papa, we wanna get ice cream". "Then we're going to get ice cream". "We wanna walk around in the mall". "Let's do it". "We wanna do this other thing". "Let's do that".
See, my job is not to parent them, my job is to grandparent them. Fill 'em up with sugar and send them on home, right? No, but seriously, it's to enter into their life, do what they wanna do. You say well, you know, "That's a nice thing for you to do". Actually I enjoy it, it's good for me too. And I think when you have a new believer in your life, it energizes you as well. You know, some grandparents have collected a lot of things over the years that they have in their home and they say to the grandkids when they come over, "Don't touch anything, that's fragile, don't break that". You know, get rid of all that junk, okay. Put it in a box, no one likes it anyway, just...it's funky old stuff. Put it away, go admire it sometime in your own.
When your grandkids come in, make your home a welcoming place. And the same is true spiritually. Have a life, have a lifestyle, have a home that's welcoming to new believers. It's good for them and it's good for you. Because a new believer might ask questions that you don't have the answers to, therefore you got to get back in the Bible again and they'll remind you of things that maybe you have forgotten. I read an article about a number of billionaires who are trying to find a cure for aging and some of them are getting blood, I'm not making this up, this seems insane to me. They're getting blood transfusions from healthy young people from the ages of 16 and 25, believing it will reverse the aging process. What they didn't plan for was the fact that after getting these blood transfusions, they moved back into their parents' house and played video games nonstop so.
No, listen, you want a blood transfusion? Get a new believer not a dog, not a cat, they're fine. No, a human being that you can help grow spiritually. And here at Harvest, we are an evangelistic church and will always be an evangelistic church. New believers are the lifeblood of the church. You show me a church that doesn't have a constant flow of new believers in it, and I will show you a church that's beginning to stagnate. As I've said before, we have a choice, evangelize or fossilize. We don't wanna live in the past, we rejoice in what God has done but that's then and this is now. And we wanna keep reaching new people and help them come into a relationship with Christ.
And that brings us now to what we call the Great Commission here in Matthew 28 verse 16, "Jesus said to his disciples, 'I've been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all my commands I have given you. And be sure of this,' says our Lord. 'I'm with you even to the end of the age.'"
That brings me to my next point, before I can make a disciple I have to first be a disciple. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? And are you discipling someone else? Listen, we should be either discipling someone or we should be being discipled by someone. In other words, we should either have a new believer in our life that we're helping out, or we should have an older believer in our life that's helping us out and guess what? Sometimes you can do both at the same time. You can have someone that's mentoring you and you can be mentoring somebody else. This is really important and it's part of what we're called to do.
What is The Great Commission? Number one, he says, be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. And what else are we to do? We're to teach people to obey his commands. And by the way, The Great Commission is a command. In other words, Jesus says, "Hey, if you can work it out in your busy schedule, would you mind as a personal favor to go into all the world"? No, he says, "I'm your Lord, I'm your commander and I command you to go into all the world and preach the gospel". I like to be commanded by Jesus, don't you? That's a great thing to do.
Remember years ago, I had the privilege of being asked to be on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association by Billy himself. And I remember I was invited into a room where Billy and all of those that have served with him for so many years wanted me to give them a sermon. And I was petrified preaching in front of Billy Graham. And so I was brought onto the board and one day Billy said, I need a hat because Billy was always losing his hats. Somehow he thought that a ball cap would disguise him but people always managed to recognize Billy. Because he had a profile you could put on Mount Rushmore. You know, very distinctive profile. People always recognized him but he wanted a hat. "Greg," he said, "I want you to get me a hat". I felt like I was on a mission from God.
So, I don't know where we were, we were in some city where he was doing a crusade and went down to the local mall and I found a hat store. I think it was called Lids maybe. And I've never seen so many hats in my life and I didn't know what his size was, I'm looking and praying God give me wisdom, what's the right hat for Billy Graham? And then I finally found a hat and I went to him, "Billy, I got you a hat". It's ball cap. He says, "Thank you". He put it on. The next day there was a picture of him wearing my hat. I said, "That's my hat, I got him that hat". And then he lost it. So, you know, but I love the fact that Billy Graham said, "Do this for me". It was my honor, it was my privilege to do anything to help a man of God like that. Now, think the Lord Jesus Christ is saying, "Do this for me. Look at all that I've done for you, now I want you to do the following, go into all the world and make disciples of all nations".
It's a command. It's not given to only the original disciples, nor is it given to the so-called professionals alone like pastors, or evangelists, or missionaries, these words are addressed to every follower of Jesus, they're addressed to you. So here's my question, are you making disciples? When is the last time you've shared the gospel? When is the last time you've taken a new believer under your wing and helped them to grow spiritually? And this is something for all of us to do. And listen, the calling of God is the enabling of God. He will give you all of the power that you need. Look at verse 18, Jesus says, "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and make disciples".
Now, whenever you see the word, "Therefore," find out what it's there for. It's always drawing on what was previously said. So contextually, Jesus says, "All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore". Wait, but you have the power, I don't have it. "No, I'm giving it to you". It says, "Jesus, go therefore into all the world and make disciples". What does it mean to go and make disciples? It means to lead others to Christ, establish them spiritually and do it again. It's sort of like wash, rinse, repeat. You've seen that on some direction for cleaning something? Wash, rinse, repeat. Or evangelize, stabilize, and mobilize.
This is our job. You do it, you do it again, you do it again, and you do it a few more times and then you keep doing it. It never stops. It's a lifetime commitment. Somewhere along the line, we've separated evangelism from discipleship but they're really one and the same. The Great Commission is not just gospel proclamation, it's follow up and it's discipleship. And it would be like a doctor, you know, delivering a baby and then giving the baby a box of Pampers and saying, "Son, you got to get out there, it's a rough world, but you'll do okay".
A baby needs to be cared for. Speaking of babies, a study was conducted in a large hospital and they discovered something interesting. They found that the people working in the nursery noticed that the babies who were in their cribs near the door did better than the babies in the cribs in the other parts of the room. They wondered why. After careful study, they discovered the nurses were more prone to give attention to the babies near the door as they went about their duties. This is what a new believer needs, they need care, they need attention, you need to take time for them. This is what we're all called to do. And listen to what Christ says in closing. He says, "Go into all the world, make disciples of all nations". And then he says, "And lo I am with you, even to the end of the age".
This promise is not simply saying that Jesus is with us, but he is if you're a Christian because Jesus said, "I'll never leave you or forsake you". But this is a promise in its context that is specifically saying to those who are fulfilling the Great Commission. Allow me to paraphrase. Jesus is saying, "As you go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things that I've commanded you, lo I am with you". In other words, I'm gonna be with you in a special way. I'm gonna bless you in a unique way. I'm gonna use you in a fantastic way as you go about doing this thing that I've called you to do.