22 May 2012

HOW WILL THEY KNOW I’M A CHRISTIAN [PART 5]



Joshua 14:6-15

When you think of the word disciple what comes to mind? Serving, to follow after? If so you’re on the right train. A disciple by definition is: According to the New Oxford American Dictionary a disciple is “a follower, fanatic, believer, student, and supporter." In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, we find that the word used in the Greek New Testament for "disciple" is "mathetes." This means “learner, pupil, and disciple." A disciple is one who believes and follows the teachings of another, and desires to learn more of his master's will. Historians said that the unbelievers in Antioch started calling the early beleivers "Disciples"  this and it was a derogatory word at the time. It meant “Little Christ”. The Unbelievers were using this to put down the Disciples. They said they were acting just like a Little Jesus....[Luke wrote this The Disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Acts 11:26b] It seems that trend of behavior hasn’t left us…….People today would say that we’re? Jesus freaks, fundamentalists, intolerant or haters to name a few. See! Being a true disciple is a lifelong process that never ends until He calls us home to glory. Things we need to understand……being a disciple of Jesus isn’t about having a new set of morals and rules to live by…..though that is true to some extent. Being a disciple is the supernatural and transforming work that God does as He continually changes each and every Christian into the image of Christ. This is the reason and foundation of our discipleship. Being a disciple of Jesus takes great courage, faith, obedience and perseverance! So let me ask you! Do you display the characteristics by the definition mentioned? Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?

How will they know that I’m a Christian? By whom I follow with my whole life? I think one of the greatest examples of a disciple who lived and displayed these characteristics is a simple man name Caleb, who was a man who feared the Lord and wanted nothing more than to please and serve the Lord. Why? Because he had a high view of God and never found it boring to live his life for Him.

See back in the Book of Numbers we read about Caleb coming on the scene........Number 13: 26-33 “And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, "We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large………..But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are." So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, "The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height………..and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."

But this cut to the heart of Caleb because it says “And Joshua….and Caleb, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, "The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them." Num 14:6-9

What was there response to this outburst of devotion to the Lord? “Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.” Num 14:10

 So what happened next? “Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea." Num 14:20-25
Now we fast forward 45 years later to the Book of Joshua chapter 14! We see this covenant promised fulfilled in a man who was a devoted disciple of the Living God. See we need to understand this wasn’t any ordinary land……this was the Hebron! This was the city of Abraham the “friend of God” and Hebron’s present day name is still called “The Friend”. Hebron is the city that represented the everlasting Covenant of all the children of faith to Abraham and his descendants [Gen 17:8]. Hebron was the city of David where he was crowned before he reigned in Jerusalem. Hebron is still one of the most interesting and delightful places in Palestine. Hebron is a highly elevated spot, overlooking a wide extent of country which has a scene of surpassing beauty, fertility and luxuriance. Remember what Moses wrote when they came back from spying? “And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs.” Num 13:23. Hebron country side is covered with vineyards and plantations…….The grapes of Eshcol still grow in the valleys.

So this isn’t some plot of useless land that God promised Joshua and Caleb some 45 years ago. This promise is what fueled Caleb to continue each and every day for! Why because it flowed with the protection and blessings of our Lord and as a disciple it was his passion to serve no matter what. Just as the Gospel flows with His promise of eternal life with His son Jesus Christ.
So, we see a wonderful example for us to live by today in this portion of Scripture. It speaks to all ages [young and old]

1.       A true disciple is someone who is  faithful [v7]
2.       A true disciple is someone who shadows another [v8-v9]
3.      A true disciple is someone who is strong and courageous [v11-v15]

A TRUE DISCIPLE IS SOMEONE WHO IS CHARACTERIZED BY A LIFE OF FAITHFULNESS [V7,V12]

 “I brought back word to him, as it was in my heart.” [v7] This is the heart of a true disciple! He gave to Moses upon his return a sincere, honest and faithful representation of the land, and its inhabitants, as it appeared to him. And it was his faith that drove his passion for God. Faith is one of the main ingredients that we find victory in battle, struggles and temptations in this life. It was Caleb’s faith that gave him the fuel to say the things he said when they went in to spy on the land, and here in this portion of scripture. When you’re a disciple [a follower after Christ with a burning passion]….it’s our faith that comes easy, because it’s God who grants us faith in the first place. Paul wrote these words! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Eph 2:4-8. One of the greatest gifts God could ever give us is a faith that is illuminated to His mercy and grace. Faith is the foundation of our relationship with Christ and is everything according to the Gospel. Even when Jesus spoke about the dangers of temptation and the command to forgive…..the disciples requested more faith. Luke 17:1-6And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
It’s by our faith that we are able to endure and continue because we trust in the promises that He has made through His word [firmly planted in Christ]. Caleb knew that! The question for us is……Do we?

A TRUE DISCIPLE IS SOMEONE WHO SHADOWS THE LORD [V8-V9]

 When we follow him we are obeying Him and this means we are pleasing Him. That why it says “I have followed the LORD my God” and didn’t grumble with the others. See a disciple is someone who stands beside the Lord and won’t jump ship every time there is a ripple in the water. A disciple is a person who is firmly planted because of their faith to follow the leader which is the Living God of the bible. John Gill in his commentary said this “Caleb, did not join with them in an ill report of the good land; but having the fear of God before his eyes, walked after that, and delivered in his report faithfully, according to the dictates of his conscience, and the real sentiments of his mind.” Remember! When we stand fast in the place of testing….when we sacrifice our selfish things or desires is when will hear those beautiful words....Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” Matt 25:21.

Let me ask you! If this was you what would you do? Are you going to grumble and complain with doubt and fear as the nation did? The reason I ask…….  Joshua writes these words about what Caleb spoke to Moses! “brethren….made the heart of the people melt” [v8] which means to discourage them; fill them with fears, to have sunken spirits. But the true disciple’s response in with faith because they believe and trust whom they follow! “but I wholly followed the LORD my God” This is what Jesus meant when he said “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21. To follow after Jesus, is a disciples pre-requisite, it’s our duty, honor, and passion! To follow after Jesus is to have the greatest and most precious jewel in the whole entire universe. To follow after Jesus is to walk with a living hope in a mighty God….not a walk of doubt and despair because it looks impossible. Again remember what Jesus said “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." Mark 10: 27

 A TRUE DISCIPLE IS SOMEONE WHO IS STRONG AND COURAGEOUS TO THE END [V11-V15]

Look what Joshua wrote for us to find encouragement! “I am still strong today” This is the part I love in this passage!  A man who is passionate, and all fired up to possess the promises of God. A man who will continue to do the Lord’s at any cost or at any age. This is what churches desire today and need today........More Caleb types, who will serve with courage, honor and are not afraid to stand for the truth of God and His promises. John Calvin said it best when it came to defending the word of God and His promises “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” A disciple is strong not weak and unable to endure or continue! “I can do all things” Phil 4:13. A disciple never calls it quits until God says so…..and Caleb is a prime example for us here this morning. See society has it all backwards! The world says “plan for your retirement so that you can rest and enjoy life.” Get your Freedom 55 now, so that you can live out the rest of your life with ease and tranquility collecting shells and playing shuffle board. Why? Because you deserve it….you worked hard for it. Give me a break! Caleb is 85 years of age and he still wants to go to war because of his love and passion for the God of the bible. This truth goes on the same lines that Isaiah wrote “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isa 40:31. We should never use age or lack off as an excuse to serve the living God of the bible.

The church needs more Caleb’s and less excuse makers as it happened in his day! “Where are the men of courage” as Alex Kendrick said in the movie “Courageous!” The same principle applies to you ladies.
·         Where are the men who will stand and fight for what are right?
·         Where are the men who walk with a burning passion for truth?
·         Where are the men who will fight for the sake of the gospel?
·         Where the men who are never are bored being a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Again never let age discourage you from serving. It’s not your age that’s holding you back it the lack of courage and strength to continue for His sake and for His glory. There is a place for everyone young and old….never forget that because Caleb is our example. The disciples in the New Testament are our examples. The reformers and missionaries though out generations are our examples. The churches since the early church until today are our examples. A disciple of Christ has not age limit and is never bored to say because He lives I can face tomorrow! But remember! Being a disciple isn’t about fame, fortune or personal glory or gain…..It’s a life that may seem boring to the world but life giving to the Christian day by day until He calls us home.

How will they know that I’m a Christian?  By my daily walk of faith to follow the Lord of hope with courage and the examples laid for me in Scripture.“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Heb 12:1-3. How can we ever grow weary when the LORD is our source of strength to endure no matter how old we are or become? A true disciple follows until he or she hears those beautiful words “well done, good and faithful servant…”  Will you hear those precious words one day? 

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