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Learning the Christian Life

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 17, 2020 4:00 am

Learning the Christian Life

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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August 17, 2020 4:00 am

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Living on the Edge
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Living on the Edge
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Living on the Edge
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Principals can only go so far. Teaching can only go so far. Teaching tells me what I am to do. Example proves to me it's possible. So you teach the principals.

You give people the word of God. You give them good material, good books to read. And then in your example, you show them that responding to those principles is possible.

John Donne famously said, no man is an island.

Well, that's certainly true if you're a Christian, God never intended you to go it alone to isolate yourself as you make life's big decisions or battle sin or and study scripture. God intends for you to benefit from relationships with other believers. But what do those relationships look like? John MacArthur is going to answer that question today on Grace to you as he begins a series of messages originally preached to students at the master's university. This study, titled A Course for Life, is a collection of John's Chapel messages that put together provide a blueprint for the Christian life. Now, John, let's introduce this study. And I want you to talk for a few minutes about the importance of setting the right course for your life when you're young.

Well, I think we all know statistically that most people would come to Christ by far the vast majority of people who come to Christ. I think it's 70, 80 percent come before they're 18 years of age. They come from Christian families. They they grow up in Sunday school, in churches, under those kinds of influences and and for for the sake of the kingdom. That's a wonderful thing, because they get a good start. There's there's sort of an uncorrupted beginning. And if they're faithful, you know, then they become useful for life because they their Christianity, their faithfulness goes back a long way. There's no better time, obviously, to get your spiritual act together than when you're young because you're forming all kinds of habits. Hey, look, habits are hard to break. I remember reading some psychologists who said if you did the same thing 70 times in a row, it would be a life habit. That's all it takes. Little over two months on a daily basis of doing something wrong. And you've got a life habit of doing something right. You've got a life habit. And those habits for for most people are formed when people are young. So that's what makes the Masters University so critical. We get these incredibly gifted, smart, motivated young people really from all over the world who come to the Masters University here in Southern California, and we have the opportunity to shape them for life. It's a real spiritual incubator and of course, everything taught at the Masters universities based upon the word of God. So we're gonna do a series and you're going to love this series. The series is called A Course for Life. And these are messages that I bring to the students at the Masters University. So you're going to come into chapel with our students and you're going to hear the things that I'm telling them, spiritual direction related to your decisions, your relationships, your career, your usefulness to the church, your witness for Christ, even what it means to walk with the Lord blueprint for the life of every student. But certainly for the young, you'll want to encourage any students, you know, to listen to these messages, plan out to pick up the D album and give it to college or high school students in your life. And more about that before we close. But right now, let's begin a course for life with a message I call Learning the Christian Life.

And this is a message you won't want to miss. It looks at one of the most fundamental aspects of your Christian walk discipleship. So let's get to it. Here's John kicking off this study. He calls a course for life.

A lot of students asked me questions about discipleship. It's almost a weekly occurrence. And I thought that I might take a little bit of time to share with you some of the basic elements of disabling what is really involved in discipleship someone. What really makes up a disabling relationship? I believe that in First Corinthians, Chapter four versus 14 to the end of the chapter, verse 21, you have a good model. It's it's what I would call an implicit disciple model rather than an explicit one in the sense that it doesn't say this is discipleship.

It implies it in the process of delineating the truths in this particular text. Now, let me give you a simple definition of the word disciple. It means a learner. Matthei tastes in the Greek, means a learner, one who learns, and that's all a disciple is a disciple thing is simply teaching someone. It's not simply didactic. It's implanting in their life a pattern of living. In fact, I have often said that the best way to define discipleship is this is a deep friendship with a spiritual core. It is a deep friendship with a spiritual core. It is coming alongside someone not for the sake of instruction, but for the sake of of passing on your life patterns to them. And that means that it's not just disseminating information. It's teaching them how to live a godly life. It's walking through the world with them and passing on information in the daily struggles and issues of life. Disciples, someone is is reproducing in them. The pattern of your own life. It's more than didactic. It's more than informational. It's much deeper than that. But there are six ingredients that Paul delineates here as he speaks regarding his relationship to the Corinthians. And I want to give you these six or your own thinking, because I believe they'll help you frame up what discipleship is all about. And you can hold your disciples to this and you can be held to this by the person you may be, disciple number one. And we look let's look at the text. First of all, in verse 14 and 15, we'll read those two verses. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children for if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers for in Christ Jesus. I became your father through the Gospel. Now Paul here is saying, you're my children. You're my disciples. You're my followers. And the first reason or the first element of that is that discipleship begets K jot that one down. He begets this is where the relationship really begins.

Paul says, You are my beloved children. I feel responsible for you. That's why he wrote to them First Corinthians. That's why he wrote to them Second Corinthians. That's why he spent 18 months of his life there. He was intimately involved in the process of nurturing them as his disciples.

But it all began when he begat them. And verse fifteen is where we go to see that.

He says if you were to have countless tutors. Now, this is an interesting word, paida Gagas, paida good guys. The word means moral guardians. It's not the idea of a teacher. It's the idea of someone who was hired by a family to come alongside the children in the family and guard their moral development. It would be a slave in most cases, not hired to teach them, but hired to guard them, hired to walk with them, to spend his time with them, to make sure their lives, whereas they ought to be almost like a nanny, might be almost like a guardian. We could translate it. You may have 10000. That's the Greek word. You may have ten thousand moral guardians, yet you would not have many fathers. How many fathers does anyone have?

One. You only have one who begets. So you may have 10000 people concerned with your moral development, but you only have one father for in Christ Jesus and hear the emphatic use of ego. I only became your father through the gospel. The disabling process begins when you beget someone, when you father them into the faith. That's where the disabling process begins.

And when you have followed through on your responsibility to communicate Christ and had the privilege of leading someone to the Lord, then you become their spiritual father. And they might have 10000 moral guardians. But they will view you in a unique relationship. They will see you as their spiritual father, having begotten them through the gospel. And there will be a bond there like no other bond.

I can tell you that from personal experience, the people that I have had the privilege of leading to Christ have a far different relationship to me than any other people because they see me as a very special instrument of God in their life. And the attachment is almost frightening.

I was in Phenix and I was in Albuquerque this week doing pastors conferences all week long. People would come up to me, tearfully, want to hug me and say I was saved. Listening to you preach, I was saved. Listening to your radio program. I was saved reading something that you wrote.

There is a bonding there that is really remarkable. And the purest, truest kind of discipleship process flows out of that one to one relationship when one begets another through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And you will find in that such a fulfilling and such a joy because the bond of love is deep.

Now you say, well, are you saying that you should never disciple somebody you haven't led to Christ? No, because let's face it, a lot of people have been led to Christ who don't have access to the person who was instrumental in leading them to Christ. Maybe the person has moved away. Maybe it's like me. They they read a book or heard a tape or listen to a radio program, or maybe someone led them to Christ and was unfaithful to follow them up.

So I've often thought that the world is surely full of new babes in Christ who are lying around kicking and screaming, pleading for somebody to feed him and change their diapers, you know, so there are a lot of folks who are around and aren't being disciples because whoever disciple them either would not or could not follow them up.

But just remember this. The bonding in discipleship is the purest and the most fulfilling when you have been the spiritual father in that relationship. It begins with evangelism. And if we are to be a true disciple or we are to be a true evangelist, to bring someone to Christ is what starts the whole thing.

So let me just encourage you young people, that it's essential that we be involved in the disciples, an element of begetting, bringing people to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Talk about a true friend. You're looking for a true friend. Lead someone to Christ.

Now, you have a friend, probably a friend that in most cases will stick closer than a brother.

The second element into cycling, after you've gotten someone noticed, first 14, Paul is writing to them and he's been, for all intents and purposes, blistering them up one side and down the other for four chapters. I mean, he has really laid them out and their ears are beginning to burn.

And then you come to verse 14, he says, I don't write these things to shame you.

Listen, you never want to bring into a relationship. The goal of shaming someone that's negative.

He says, I don't write these things to shame you, to embarrass you. But here it comes to admonish you. And there's the second element in the discipled process. He not only begets, but he admonishes.

Now, what does it mean to admonish? Put down the word warn, he warns. That's really what it means. This is a Greek verb. Nu theta. Oh. And what it means is it means to admonish or encourage someone with a view toward impending judgment. It's warning. It's saying, look, if you continue to go the way you're going to go, the consequences are going to be serious. He says, that's why I'm writing this way to you. It's because I'm warning you about the path you're headed in. The Corinthian's were in discord. They were messed up about singleness. They were messed up about marriage. They were messed up about sex. They were messed up about remarriage. They were fouled up about meat offered to idols and pagan worship. They were confused about many, many things. They were confused, as you know, later on about spiritual gifts. They were confused about the resurrection from the dead. There were all kinds of problems in that church. And Paul is saying to them, I have to warn you that if you continue in this path, you're going to face some serious consequences.

I believe that's part of the discipline process. There's a warning thing here that when you love somebody, you warn them.

Certainly as a father, I warned my children out of love. Nobody says, why do you continually warn your children? Don't you love them? Wait a minute. I warned them because I love them. Don't touch that. It's hot. Don't get in there. It'll it'll burn. You don't walk in the street. You might get hit by a car. And that's normal expression of love that says you better not do that or the consequences are going to be bad. That's what discipleship does. It doesn't coddle sin. It confronts it in love.

It doesn't tolerate it. But that's the mood of the day that says, since it isn't your fault anyway, why should we hold you responsible for your behavior?

Paul certainly didn't handle things that way. First Corinthians, he says you better stay away from that sexual sin.

He was very confronted. That's part of discipleship. It's an admonishing.

It's an accountability. I hold you responsible for virtue. I have people in my life who call me during a week at set intervals to tell me whether they have committed a certain sin.

And they do that during the week because I have set up an accountability with them to hold them accountable, not to commit that sin. And some of them have fallen into such habit patterns that they have to call me every couple of days to report it because I demand that of them. I want to pray for you. And I want to help you get over this sin, this this thing that's in your life. And the only way I know to do that is to make you responsible, to tell me every time you do it. So call me every other day and tell me whether you've committed that sin. And invariably, they they don't want to have to tell me that. So that accountability becomes a deterrent. And if you can follow that pattern long enough, you can break the back of some habits.

That's accountability and that's done out of love.

You admonish a disabling racial relationship, confront sin in a loving way. Hey, you do it.

How is Galatians six says you do it with love, but you do it admonish. Third factor in discipleship. This too is vital.

An effective disciple of begets an effective disciple or warns. Thirdly, an effective disciple or loves. And I just draw this out of verse 14 where he says to admonish you as my beloved children, Paul, we think of him always, you know, as this great mind, this analytical, critical thinker.

This is this massive intellect. But he had a heart of tremendous compassion. He had a gentleness about him. He had a meekness.

He had a caring spirit. And it's manifested in the way he loved. He loved deeply. And he loved profoundly. And he loved unhesitatingly. And he loved sacrificially. And he says to these Corinthians, my beloved children. And in so doing, he cracks a little window on his feelings toward them and says, I love you.

And let me tell you something, young people, you will never effectively disciple anyone that you do not love because it is the love that you show to them that binds them to you.

That's the attraction in the relationship. That's the bonding element as you demonstrate your love to them. They hold tightly to you because love is the greatest of all things to experience. You say what you mean by love. You mean feelings, not just that. I mean basically sacrifice.

How does somebody know you love them when you sacrifice for them? If you say, hey, I want to disciple you. I really do. And they say to you, could we meet? I have a real burden. Could we meet and pray? I'm sorry. Let's see. It'll be. Oh, boy. How about next Tuesday at four? The message you just sent is, look, I want to disciple you. It's a duty I'd like to perform, but I'm not really too concerned about you, to be honest with you. You are sending loud signals to that person that you don't love them. And love is the bond that holds the relationship together. The way you demonstrate that love is not by feeling the warm and fuzzy is not holding hands, swaying back and forth and singing songs. The way the way you demonstrate that love is how much sacrifice you make for that person.

What are you sacrificing for that person?

So discipleship means begetting, it means admonishing, and it means loving, which means sacrificing myself for you. I believe that some of you, because it's typical of any group of Christian people, will make it through most of your life without ever setting aside any significant things in your life. For the sake of anybody else. You will do it until maybe you learn the hard way and you wake up to find that you don't have anybody left in your circle of friends. You don't have any relationships that have any depth at all because you're not giving up anything to make those relationships what God would have them to be.

Number four, the fourth element in effective discipleship is to set an example, to set an example. It is more important what you do than what you say.

And I know there are some people to say, you know, I don't know if I can be a very good disciple. I don't know much theology. I don't know if I can be a very good disciple because I I'm not sure what the principles of discipleship are. That isn't the issue.

The issue in disciples, someone is to come alongside of them and model a virtuous life, whatever you may say or not say. Certainly it can be strengthened by your effectiveness as a communicator. But the real issue here is exemplary.

Look at verse 16. Paul says, I exhort you therefore be imitators of me and be imitators of me. Patterned your life after me. And that's what a disciple or has to say. I want you to be like me. Is that back? Does that put any back pressure on you? I mean, if you're a disciple and someone you a be like me, that ought to put some heat on you.

Right? You expect them to have a prayer life, then you better have one. If you expect them to have a time in the word of God, you better have one. If you expect them to love the Lord with all their heart, then you better do that. If you expect them to be sacrificial Christians, then you better be one, because that's exactly what they'll pick up the level of your own life pattern.

You see, a true discipleship relationship is intimate enough for that to be manifest. It's intimate enough for that to be manifest.

And frankly, young people, you probably right now, in the years of the four years that you're here at the Masters College, have the greatest possible training ground on the face of the earth to learn the discipline process, because never again in your life will you probably live in a communal environment like this.

Once you step out of this thing, marry somebody, you'll go into your own little box on your own little street, and it'll be at the end of intimate community for you. And you can from then on pretty much isolate who you are to the three, four or five people that live in your house. But while you're here, who you are, ripples all down the hall, doesn't it? The impact, the potential impact for the disabling process here, maybe the greatest that will ever be in your life unless you wind up with a career and a submarine or something like that. You have a tremendous opportunity here to live an exemplary life and to impact and effect probably the widest range of people you ever will. And the potential for personal one to one impact of an exemplary life is great. And that's the heart and soul of the discipling process.

So Paul says, imitate me.

And that's what the disciple has to say. Imitate me. You see me in the morning. You see me at night. You see me all through the day. You see my reactions to difficulty. You see my reactions to good things. You'll see how I use my time, how I use my money, how I how I use my eyes, my ears, everything. My body.

It's all there for you to see. Verse 17 says and following up the same thing for this reason.

That is the reason that I want you to imitate me. I have sent to you, Timothy.

Who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he'll remind you of my ways which are in Christ? Paul says, I've reproduced myself and Timothy, and since I want you to be like me, I'm sending him because he's already like me.

So it's a matter of setting an example. You know, the fun of discipleship is reproducing yourself. And, you know, you sit back and all of a sudden you're look at this guy you've poured your life into and he comes to you and you just you almost want to laugh. I've had this experience because he's just he's regurgitating back to you everything you've shown him.

Only he thinks he's discovered it all. You know, he's saying, boy, you know how I feel about this, Reverend. You're just smiling away because that's exactly how you feel about it.

That's the joy of the reproductive process. You set the example that people come alongside you and learn how you live, how you think, how you react. Set the example.

Number five, an effective disciple or teaches. He begets. He warns he loves. He sets an example. He teaches Paul at the Universe 17, says, I teach everywhere in every church.

So he says, I want you to follow my pattern. I want you to follow my pattern, as exemplified in Timothy. He will remind you of my ways which are in Christ. He'll show you how I lived. And though they're the same ways that I teach everywhere. So there's another component in disciple.

There is teaching.

You say what? What do I do in this process? Well, for years and years I have disciple men by taking them through books of the Bible, teaching them the things that the Bible, teaching them theology, teaching them all kinds of things. That's part of it. I've also recommended many books that I love and books that I think are very important that I encourage them to read and give them instruction in areas of Christian development, biblical truth, doctrine and so forth. That's a part of it. You give them principles and you give them precepts.

Principles can only go so far. Teaching can only go so far. Teaching tells me what I am to do. Teaching shows me my duty. Example proves to me it's possible.

That's good. That's encouraging because if all I got was principals, principals, principals, principals, principals, and I looked at my own life, I'd say, I can't hack it. I can't make it. So you show me someone who is and I say, hey, not only is this my duty, but it's possible.

So you teach the principles, you teach the precepts.

You give people the word of God. You give them good material, good books to read, whatever you want to give them in the discipleship process. And then in your example, you show them that responding to those principles is possible.

And then the last principle, number six. And let's just say he disciplines he disciplines the disciples or disciplines or she disciplines either one. Would you notice in verse 18, some of you have become arrogant and you don't think I'm coming to you.

Paul says, some of you people I've I've caught some of my life and you don't think I'm going to come back to quadrants. So you're you're just out on your own, doing your own thing and you're proud about it. But verse 19, I will come to you.

I will come to you if the Lord Wills and I'm going to find out not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power.

I'm going. I'm going to come home to find out if you're all talk or if you've really got some clout for the Kingdom of God doesn't consist in words, but in power.

So what do you desire? Look at this. Verse 21.

Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness? What's he saying? He's saying even even when we're severed in that disciple relationship, even when we've separated. I'm going to come back to you. And if you think you can get away with anything, you're wrong. Because I'm going to confront you.

And I'm going to confront your arrogance and find out if you've really got the clout you claim to have. So he's saying you better get your act together so that when I come to you, I don't have to come with a rod, because if you've got things right with the Lord, I can come in a spirit of love and gentleness. Now, what I want you to see in this point is this, that there's a sense in which you never lose the disciple. People say to me, how long do you siple someone before you give them up? Let me tell you some. Once you've discipled someone effectively, you never give them up the rest of your life. I had a guy that I sible for three years. I poured my life into that guy. We separated because he moved to another area. I heard about him being involved in sinful things. I basically enacted First Corinthians. I went to him, I confronted him, I disciplined him. I went with a rod and that kind of situation. And I said, you out of sight is not out of mind. We have a relationship and I want to confront that sin, which is in your life. And I called him back to repentance. That's part of it, too. That's part of it, too.

You may not be able to follow up everybody that you've influenced, but the need to follow up. And so he says to the Corinthians, hey, I'm coming. I'm coming to see you. And he writes a letter. And I hope when I get there, I'm going to find that you can take me in love and gentleness rather than with a rod. Now, how then do we disciple beget worn love? Set an example, teach and discipline when discipline is necessary. That really is the simple stuff of which discipleship is me.

This is Grace to you with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. The study John launched today was originally preached at the master's university where John serves as chancellor. He's titled this series A Course for Life. Now, friend, if you'd like to own this series, it's available in a 10 C.D. album, or you can download it to your smartphone for free to get a copy for yourself or for your son or daughter. Contact us today. Call Toll Free 855 Grace. Or you can go online to G.T. y dot org. The C.D. album, A Course for Life costs 44 dollars and shipping is free again to order.

Call 855 Grace or visit our Web site G.T.. Why dot org. You can also download the series Free of Charge in audio and transcript format online at G.T.. Why, dawg?

That's our Web site. And there you'll find also the Grace to you blog video clips from John's many conference appearances and more than 35 hundred sermons, all of them free of charge.

Just visit G.T. y dot org. Also, thanks for remembering that Grace to you is listener supported your gifts. Help us minister to homemakers and politicians, businessmen and prisoners, commuters and church leaders. Because of your generosity, we can encourage believers around the world with the verse by verse teaching of God's word to partner with us.

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You can also donate online at G.T. y dot org or by calling us at 855 Grace. Now for John MacArthur and the grace to use staff, I'm your host, Phil Johnson.

Join us again tomorrow for another half hour of unleashing God's truth. One verse at a time on Grace to You.

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