FINDING GOD’S AUTHORITY
If one would seek to be a disciple of Jesus, then he must be willing to submit to the authority of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples” (Jn 8:31). In order to know that one is submitting to the authority of Jesus, then he must know that to which he is submitting. He must know the word (commandments) of Jesus. It is imperative, therefore, that any true disciple of Jesus will know the will of his Teacher if he claims to be a disciple of Jesus.
I. Discipleship means relinquishing oneself totally to Jesus’ authority.
The application of this point was illustrated by Jesus on one occasion during His ministry. There were great multitudes following Him because He fed them with fish and bread, and healed their sick. So at the time this event happened, Jesus wanted to separate the true followers from the takers. Notice carefully what happened. “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them …” (Lk 14:25). It was was at this point in His ministry that He called on the great multitudes who would follow Him to reveal their commitment to being His disciples. In order to do this, He turned around and said to the great multitude, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother … does not bear his own cross … does not forsake all that he has, cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:26-33).
Jesus’ condition for discipleship was extreme commitment to Him. If one could not put Jesus before family relationships, survive under the persecution of the world, and be willing, if necessary, to relinquish the material possessions of this world, then he simply could not be a disciple. All these things would distract the individual from allowing Jesus to have authority over the totality of his life. Jesus could not be the head of anyone who was not willing to allow Him to control their destiny.
Upon His departure from this world, Jesus wanted to make it clear that He had to be the final authority in the lives of all those who would seek to be His disciples. So He gave to His immediate disciples a message that was communicated to us through them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). If Jesus now has all authority, and He does, then He must have all authority in the lives of those who would be His disciples. When we submit to His word, therefore, we reaffirm the fact that He has authority over all things.
II. Discipleship means submitting to the authority of the truth.
If one would be committed to Jesus, then he must be committed to the truth that comes forth from Jesus. Jesus promised the apostles that “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13; see 14:26). The truth first came orally to man through the inspirational guidance of the apostles of Jesus. One’s response or reaction to this truth would determine his discipleship to Jesus. So Paul wrote, “The presence of the lawless one is according to … all deception of wickedness among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved” (2 Th 2:9,10). If one does not love the truth, then it is conclusive that he is not a disciple of Jesus, for Jesus is the origin of the truth.
If a person does not love the truth of God that came through the apostles, then he is simply a religionist who will be judged by the works of his own religiosity. Such a person would not be a “Christian”, a follower of Christ. He is not a Christian because he is not following the truth that the Holy Spirit revealed through the apostles. It is imperative, therefore, that one study the truth in order to determine if he is a disciple of Jesus by submission to it. Those who do not love and know their Bibles can never determine if they are true disciples of Jesus. They cannot because they can never be sure that what they believe or do is according to the truth of God. If one is simply walking in what he believes to be truth, then he is a religionist who may have blended his desires with some truth from the word of God and error that he does not recognize as error. It is for this reason that true discipleship is validated only by the word of God.
III. Discipleship means doing the commandments of Jesus.
Jesus reminded those who would be His disciples, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (Jn 15:14). He said to His immediate disciples, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). Discipleship means loving the commandments of Jesus and doing them. Commitment to Jesus, means commitment to what He says. Being a disciple of Jesus means learning His commandments in order that we not be deceived, and thus tossed to and fro with every wind of teaching (Ep 4:14). When people say that they love Jesus, then it is assumed that they are diligent students of His commandments. Those who say they love Jesus, but do not seek the authority of His word in their lives, have deceived themselves into thinking that they are “Christian.” They are actually disciples of their own religion that they have invented after their own desires. We must never forget that if we claim to be a Christian, but refuse to study and know the commandments of Jesus, then we reveal our unwillingness to be Jesus’ disciple. Discipleship is determined by one’s love of the word of Jesus.
IV. Discipleship infers Bible study.
Christendom is cluttered with the calamity of misinterpretations of the word of God. Religionists often stumble over their ignorance of the Bible in order to maintain a following. We would conclude that the most severe onslaught against the word of God in these days is an ignorance that is based on the twisted theologies of those who know little or nothing about the Bible. It is not that the Bible is difficult to understand. This is far from the problem. The problem is that few people in these times have any love for the truth of the Bible. In a narcissistic world wherein most people want to do that which is pleasing in their own minds, there is little desire to “seek out the scroll of the Lord and read” (Is 34:16). The little love for the truth that many have is revealed by a world population that has little desire to study the Bible. We know this simply because of what the Holy Spirit recorded of those who were true Bible students.
These were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (At 17:11).
This is the Holy Spirit speaking about good Bible students. These Bereans loved the truth, and thus, they searched their Bibles in order to make sure that what Paul and Silas preached was true. We do not love the Bible as the Muslims reverence the Qu’ran as an icon. Christians love their Bibles because of the truth of God therein revealed, and the message of the gospel. Give a telescope to a monkey and he beats it around as a toy. Give it to a man, and he sees the wonders of the universe beyond the telescope. Give a Bible to an intellectual who does not consider it to be the word of God, and he reads it as simply a good piece of literature. Give it to one who seeks to bring his life under the authority of God, and he searches for the message of the God that is beyond the book. And it is herein that one establishes the word of God as the authority of all matters of faith in his life.
V. Discipleship means active love in obedience to the word of God.
Using the Bible as the authority of our faith does not mean using it as a catechism to establish legal laws. Paul helps us understand this in 1 Timothy 1:5,6.
Now the purpose of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith, which some, having swerved, have turned aside to meaningless discussion ….”
The “commandment is love.” But what is the commandment to those who are identified by their love of one another (See Jn 13:34,35)? Keep reading 1 Timothy 1:
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murders of fathers and murders of mothers, for murderers …” (See 1 Tm 1:9,10).
The person who sees his brother in need, needs no law to tell him to help his brother. Love is the “law.” Love as law needs no subpoints as to how it goes into action. When one loves his brother, all that is necessary to fulfill a brother’s need goes into action. Love is the action that brings the behavior of Jesus into the lives of those who seek to serve one another. John explained this clearly in 1 John 3:10. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not from God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” So John questioned, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in Him?” (1 Jn 3:17). Therefore, “let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). Love in action is bringing the authority of the word of God into one’s life. Our love in action is evidence that we are the disciples of Jesus.
Among loving disciples there need be no commandment to care for one another. It is simply the nature of true disciples to make sure that needs are fulfilled when a fellow disciple is in need. The legalist can sleep well at night because he has concluded that he has fulfilled all his self-imposed laws. The loving disciple sleeps well at night because he trusts in the grace of God to cover his lack of ability to love people more.