Tony Evans — The Experience of Discipleship
God's goal is for you to become a disciple and then become a discipler. That because you are a visual, verbal follower of Christ, he wants you to replicate that in the life of someone else.
God's goal is that people be discipled through his church. And the only proof that you are being a disciple is that you are changing. If you are not changing, that means the discipleship process is not active in your life. And if people are not changing, that means that the discipleship process is not working in our church, or in any church.
Because the whole point of discipleship is changing from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. It is obvious to us when a physical child is growing because they're changing. They're changing in their height. They're changing in their ability to feed themselves. They're changing in their ability to clothe themselves. They're hopefully improving in their decision-making.
Because change is taking place, you know development is taking place. And that process of development is called discipleship. All the programs in the world don't matter if they're not producing disciples. That's the goal.
In fact, programs can get in the way of discipleship. We can get so busy doing stuff, nobody's changing. At the heart of this emphasis of discipleship is the atmosphere that the Spirit of God is free to express himself in.
The question is, is God's Spirit at home in this house? Because if God's Spirit, the third member of the trinity, is not at home in this house, nothing will change because his job is to bring about the change.
In Acts chapter 2, we have the origin of the church. Acts chapter is where the church came into being. It is the first church in Jerusalem. We're told in Acts chapter 2, verse 4 that the people were all filled with the Spirit. We're told in verse 38, where Peter says, "Repent, each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
When the first church was started in Acts chapter 2, it was vibrant and it was alive. And the reason it was on fire is that the Holy Spirit was free to be himself.
The first of the four things I want to talk about that belong to the first church and ought to belong to every church is worship.
It says in verse 42, "They were devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching fellowship to the breaking of bread in prayer, and everyone kept feeling a sense of awe." The breaking of the bread and prayer, feeling a sense of awe, that is an overwhelming sense of God's presence in their midst. It says when they came together, they could tell God was right there in the middle. They came together to worship.
Now, let me define worship. Biblical worship is the recognition of God for who he is, what he has done, and what we are trusting him to do. It is the recognition of God for who he is, what he has done, and what we are trusting him to do. Or to put it in everyday language, worship is making a big deal about God.
Let me tell you why God deserves our worship. Because only God has, watch this, intrinsic glory. Now, stick with me for a moment. The best person you admire on their best day has what we call ascribed glory. That is glory that's heaped upon them because of certain achievements. Not so with God. Well, God has ascribed glory, but he has ascribed glory because he has intrinsic glory.
Now, what do I mean by intrinsic glory? Water is wet because that's the way it is. Water doesn't have to try to be wet. It doesn't have to work at wetness because built into water is wetness.
So, wetness is intrinsic to water. Blue is intrinsic to sky. Sky doesn't have to try to be blue, it's just blue 'cause blue is what it is. Heat is intrinsic to sun. Sun doesn't have to try to get hot, work itself up to being hot, try to get hotter, worried about losing its heat. Because intrinsic to sun is hot.
o, when you get wet in water, see blue in sky, or get heat from sun, all it's doing is being itself. The reason why we worship God is he doesn't have to try to be God. He doesn't have to work at being God. He doesn't have to become God-ish. He is who he is because he is who he is, and the reason why we worship him is he is the only one who is what he is.
I mean, what do you give somebody who has everything? Worship. So, to make a big deal about God in worship is to create an environment where the Holy Spirit is free to be himself, where the Holy Spirit is free to express himself.
So, if you come only to hear the sermon, or if you come only to hear the choir, and you don't come to worship the Lord, which is why worship centered around the breaking of bread, we call it communion, because that meant full attention being giving to God without anybody being on the platform.
Full attention being given to God without any choir singing a song, it was full attention Godward. Now, there is a place for us to lead people in worship, but we are to lead people in worship because there is only one celebrity in the house, okay, that is one with intrinsic glory.
Worship is making a big deal about God. And unless you've come to make a big deal about God--now, sometimes you do it through clapping, sometimes you do it through singing, sometimes you do it through praising, sometimes you do it through meditation.
It can come in different forms, but it is a God focus. And you can come to church and not worship. You can come to church, and if you don't worship, you will not see awe. Awe is when God shows up and shows out. Awe is when you go, "Whoa." Awe is when you say, "Where did that come from?" And what the church today is missing is awe.
Now see, 'cause you can hear a sermon and not see awe. You can hear a song and not see awe. But a sermon and a song won't fix you. A sermon and a song won't change you. You need awe.
Let's go a little deeper. You can shout and not worship. See, you can shout, you can got all emotional and not worship because there's motion and there's emotionalism. Emotion is when the Cowboys score a touchdown occasionally. The Cowboys score a touchdown, and you jump up and you are excited because of what they did.
Emotionalism is when you jump up and applaud and nothing happened. You're just feeling something, you feel it all over you. But it's not responding to who God is, what God has done, and what you are trusting him to do. And as long as God is not the focus, the Holy Spirit is not free to express himself. Worship, they gathered together for the breaking of bread and prayer, and they experienced the presence of God in their midst.
So, the first thing that the church is to do is they have it in a God-centered environment if you're going to be a disciple.
The second thing that was present is in verse 42, it says they were continually devoting themselves to the apostle's teaching, and then he says, "And fellowship."
You're all familiar when people join a church, the leaders hold out the right hand of fellowship. It means to now become part of a common family. So, the idea is to hold something in common, stay with me here.
Notice the phrases in this section:
Verse 44, "They were together and had all things in common."
Verse 45, "They were sharing them with all."
Verse 46, "Their meals together with gladness."
You see, common, sharing, together. All these were connected terms. If you are a disconnected Christian, you have blocked the Holy Spirit from changing you. First of all is worship, but secondly of all is koinonia, fellowship, to share in common.
Here is our problem, we live in a consumer generation. This generation, as many others, but particularly this one asked one overriding question, "What's in it for me?" That's why you hear all these people running around talking about getting my blessing, because they want to consume the goodness of God. They want God to do something for them.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's not wrong to want God, need God, ask God to do something for you. But it is wrong to ask God to do something for you if he can't also do it through you.
If you are a cul-de-sac Christian rather than a conduit Christian, you block the Holy Spirit from working to you 'cause he can't flow through you. He knows it's going to stop with you, and he's not interested in you being blessed and not becoming a blessing.
God told Abraham, "I'm going to bless you and I'm going to make your name great." And then he says, "And then through you, all the other nations of the earth will be blessed."
The moment you only see you, you block God because that's not God's-- that's not how he rolls. You see, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. So, the question is, how can not only God flow to me, but how can he flow through me?
In fact, that is one of the secrets of answered prayer. One of the secrets of answered prayer is when you tell God what you want him to do for you, tell him if he does it for you how it will flow through you to be a blessing to another. 'Cause now you've got his undivided attention.
Or as the book of Acts says, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? Because pass-through gives God a channel to keep flow-through. So, he wants the church to be a koinonia environment. That is an environment where people are connected with other people.
If you come, sit, soak, and sour, if you got your pew that nobody else better not sit on, if you've got your space and all you do is come to church for you, listen, you don't need the church to hear the Bible taught.
You can turn on the radio, television, or put in a CD. You don't need church to hear Christian music. You can turn on the radio, television, or put in a CD. You don't need church for that. The reason why God wants you to be part of his church is he wants you to be connected to his family, or he wants you to be part of the fellowship, the koinonia of his body.
God by nature is a relational being. He's never been by himself because the trinity is one God composed of three co-equal persons, who are distinct in personality while simultaneously being one in essence. So, God always has had company.
In fact, he has created the world to function that way. That is why fish school, wolves pack, cattles herd, and bees swarm, because he creates his creation to be in community. So, if all you do is come for you, you're actually blocking the Spirit from changing you.
That's why he want people who are being discipled to become disciplers 'cause that forces you to benefit others while you yourself are being benefited. So, that is fellowship. It is not coffee and punch in the fellowship hall. Fellowship is the life touching life.
One log in a fireplace won't stay hot very long. But if it's rubbing up against other logs, the logs keep each other hot. So, the way you stay on fire and the fire of the Spirit changes you is that you're rubbing up against other Christians, and other Christians are running up against you.
But if you are a solitary saint, you are blocking the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And the job of the church is to create an environment for connection between Christians.