Will You Lay Down Your Life So Another May Live?
John 15:13 (ESV) — Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Can you point to a specific person who played a vital part in you becoming a believer or in you growing in your faith? What did it cost them to share the Gospel with you or to help bring you to maturity in your faith?
What Are We Becoming?
What is the end goal of all this following? Where is Christ leading us?
Some think that teaching, training, proclaiming, and shepherding are tasks reserved for professionally trained pastors and uniquely gifted individuals. There is certainly truth to the idea that God has gifted us each uniquely to complement one another. But, gifting is a matter of “how” we do what we are called to do. This lesson is about “what” we are all called to do. This is a lesson on our new identity as followers and imitators of Jesus. When some read the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20), they think it was a message directed only to the Apostles as the next generation of leaders. But when you look at the whole message of Jesus, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The essence of discipleship is becoming like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). After all, Jesus did say he was THE WAY, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He also called his followers to take on “his yoke” (Matt. 11:29). If it is true that we all follow Jesus so that we will be like him, then the more closely we follow and the longer we journey with him, the more we will think like him, pray like him, serve like him, and spend our lives the way that he spent his. Certainly, none of us are the Son of God, and there are limits to the degree that we can be exactly like Jesus, but the spirit of discipleship is to become like the master.
When Jesus recruits followers he is very clear about the end goal.
Mark 1:17 (ESV) — And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Should we expect our journey with Jesus to “make us become” something different than the disciples in the Gospels?
The Tell: Spiritual Rut
Have you ever felt like your spiritual life is stuck in a rut? You go to church, you read your Bible, but it doesn’t feel like there are any new and profound lessons.
“When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut. The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.” – A.W. Tozer
When we fall into these ruts, two things tend to happen in the church: either the church primarily becomes a social club, where we spend time with good moral people; the church becomes an educational institution, where we bury ourselves in the study of God’s word, going from Bible study to Bible study, lesson to lesson.
When you read about the life of the disciples in the Gospels, or Paul in the book of Acts, there are in anything but a rut. There is constant life, vitality, fear, faith, risk, and reward waiting in every chapter. Why?
By Now You Ought to Be Teachers
Hebrews 5:12 (ESV) —For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.
The recipients of the letter of Hebrews were in a rut. They were stuck, unable to move forward, because they never moved beyond the basic principles to become teachers. They were perpetual infants or students.
People get stuck in spiritual ruts all the time.
- They attend Bible study for years, they learn and discuss the Bible, but never mentor, disciple, or evangelize.
- People get stuck in ruts when their ministry is always limited to “church work” — setting up chairs, making coffee, running events—and they never dream to think that God may use them to lead, to teach, to share, or shepherd.
- People get stuck in ruts when faith is just about filling in the gaps between marriage, work, family and fun so that life has “purpose” and “values.” Church and God are just another part of a compartmentalized life.
Question: When and how have you been stuck in a rut?
Peter Experiences a Rut
Peter is stalled. He followed Jesus for three years. He was used by Jesus to proclaim the gospel to hundreds and thousands of people. But after his denial of Christ, Peter goes back to fishing. Peter stalls. He settles for fishing, rather than fishing for men like he was originally called and trained to do. When Jesus approaches Peter in John 21, he does so to get Peter back on track.
John 21:15–17 (ESV) — When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
What was Jesus communicating to Peter when he asked him three times to feed his lambs? Why do you think he asked the same question three times? What is the link between Peter’s love of Jesus and his role as multiplier?
The Remedy: Make Disciples
How do you break out of a rut? Make disciples! If we take seriously the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) or the Great Compassion (Matt. 25:31-46) or the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-40), we will never find ourselves out of work. As long as there are people on this earth that need to be loved, led, served, and saved, then there is a life of adventure that awaits us.
Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV) — Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What Does Making Disciples Look Like?
Making disciples doesn’t require that we be an overseas missionary or pastor who earns their living from full time ministry. Jesus intended disciple-making to be a part of everyday life because making disciples is less about what you are doing and more about the priorities you have in all you are doing. You make disciples when you develop relationships with people outside your usual group of friends for the sake of exposing them to the gospel. You make disciples when you pray for a lost friend and when you invite someone to a small group, church or retreat. You make disciples when you personally take on the responsibility of helping someone grow into a disciple of Jesus himself. You make disciples when you talk to people about Jesus even though it’s hard and scary and sometimes uncomfortable. You make disciples when you take on a role with children or youth that gives you the chance to speak spiritually into their lives.
THE BOTTOM LINE: You make disciples when you connect PEOPLE to JESUS.
List a few ways that God has used you to make more disciples.
Regardless of how you have been used in the past, or how God has specifically gifted you to be used in the future. There is a very important and radical shift that must occur in the life of every follower of Christ: the shift from student to teacher; the shift from disciple to disciple-maker.
You will begin to recognize this shift when your life becomes less oriented around your wants, desires, and dreams and more defined by the spiritual needs of others.
1 Corinthians 9:19–22 (ESV) — For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
What are some of the costs that Paul has to pay so that as many as possible can be saved? Who do you feel God is calling you to make disciples of? What would it mean for you to apply the principle of v. 19-23 in order to communicate the gospel to them?
What Does Laying Down Your Life Look Like?
- Does it mean eliminating dearly loved and profitable hobbies so you can lead a small group?
- Does it mean less time with cherished friends, creating space for unbelieving friends?
- Does it mean leaving a city you love, to reach an unreached population?
- Does it mean leaving a career that dominates your schedule so that you have more time for people and the mission?
- Does it mean staying longer than you want in a situation because God is using you to minister to the people he has placed around you?
- Does it mean pushing through relational anxiety to build new relationships with people?
What do you think laying down your life for another looks like for you?
Let’s be honest. On the surface, most of us would prefer that our faith was about us —our forgiveness, about God making us better people, parents, and spouses. That is what we all want.
Do you really want to pour your life into a person only to have them walk away? Do you truly enjoy the awkwardness of sharing your faith? Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if it was just about our relationship with God?
It doesn’t do anybody any good if we pretend that we want something to please God, but never intend to follow his lead. We must move beyond the perpetual guilt and embrace what the Holy Spirit longs to do through us.
1 Corinthians 9:23–26 (ESV) — I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 (ESV) — For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
What is his motivation for shaping his life around the needs and concerns of others (v.19,22,23)? How much of your life is shaped around the needs and concerns of others?
God Is Not Done with You
Mark 1:17 — “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
Jesus took ordinary men. He trained them and equipped them to become the founders of the church. The men you read about in the book of Acts are different men then those who were called from their nets. All of this happened in a matter of three years. God isn’t done with any of his disciples until they are all transformed into fishers of men. Do you believe that is even possible?
“Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are but also of becoming what we are not yet but are called by God to be.” – Oz Guinness
The Conclusion: Final Call
The cost of this shift of priorities is death. The benefit of this shift is that others get life.
Will your love of God allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into one who would lay down his life for sake of another?
If your answer is “yes,” then there is a great adventure for you in the life of faith. If your answer is “no,” “not yet,” “I’m unsure,” then here is where you stall. If you stall too long, it is where your faith begins to rot.
This last lesson in FOLLOW, isn’t the last of six lessons; it is really the beginning of the rest of your journey with Jesus here on this earth. You are freed for a purpose. You are freed so that you can free others with the same Gospel that freed you. You are now freed from having to spend the rest of your life looking for an agenda worth living for and serving, because your agenda is his mission. You are now freed from wondering if you are living your life within God’s will because he has made his will clear, he wants YOU to feed his sheep.
If the cost of laying down your life for the sake of another seems too high or more than you bargained for, then you have your answer to the question I asked in Lesson 03. Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere he leads? No, not anywhere.
Many walked away from Jesus, because what he taught wasn’t what they wanted to hear. That is why our response to the word of God always comes down to faith and trust. We don’t need to desire everything he has for us at first. We just need to trust him and remain with him in the process, believing that somehow losing our lives may be the only way to find them (Mark 8:35).
The closer you follow Jesus, the more you fall in love with God the Father, and the longer you are led by the Holy Spirit, these three guides will always converge back on the same question. Will you become like Jesus and lay down your life, so that other people might live from the message that you bring?
Romans 10:14 (ESV) — How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death for you.” – CS Lewis
The Challenge: Make Disciples
- Who are the people that you have the most proximity and contact with in your daily life (i.e. co-workers, clients, children, friends, soccer families)? How would making disciples look in these contexts?
- Find someone who would benefit from going through FOLLOW and offer to take them through it.
- If you are willing to be tapped as a resource for new members, or new believers, let your FOLLOW leader know when you go through this lesson together.
Scripture to Read: John 8:31-32
Prayers to Pray: Pray that God develops in you a heart for the lost and the faith to believe that you too are called and empowered to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).
Steps of Faith:
- Disciple someone
- Join or start a Gospel Community
- Invite a friend, neighbor, or coworker to join your Gospel Community
- Read The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman