Taking Hold of the Master’s Hand
Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
By puttin’ your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.
I’m dating myself a little bit this morning, but how many of you remember that tune? It was written by Gene MacLellan and first recorded by Canadian singer Anne Murray. The song was later covered by Canadian band Ocean. Their version of the track is arguably the most popular version of the track, peaking at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and went on to become 22nd best-seller of 1971. Imagine that. It’s certainly a different day and time. Certainly quite a difference between today’s #1 song. Anybody know what it is? Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.
“Put your hand in the hand of the Man…” You know when you think about it that’s a pretty good description of what it means to follow Jesus, to be His disciple.
When Jesus was thirty years old he began his public ministry. The first thing he did was go gather a group of guys who he could train. They are called his disciples. Many times in Scripture it tells us that he invited people to become his disciples. In Matthew 9:9 it says this, “As Jesus was going down the road he saw Matthew sitting in his tax-collection booth, ‘Come be my disciple,’ Jesus said. So Matthew got up and followed him.” In essence they placed their hand in His hand and they followed Him.
Today, Jesus Christ makes this exact same offer to you to come be my disciple. God’s plan is that you and I, that we would put our hands in His hands and follow Him.
What is a “disciple?” The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word dicipulus. It means a student. It means a learner. It means a pupil. A disciple is an apprentice. When a mentor takes on somebody to train they are called their disciple.
But what I want us to look at this morning is Jesus’ use of the term. Jesus frequently took a very common word like student, pupil, disciple, apprentice and he adds new meaning to it. He infuses it. He injects new meaning into it.
So I want us to look at Jesus’ definition of what it means to be a disciple. Because about ten times in Scripture Jesus says “If you do this then you’re my disciple… If you do this then you can follow me.” So we want to look at discipleship as we continue our series God’s Plans, Our Hands. And I want to share with you five things, one for every finger on your hand, five things we must do if we truly want to be His disciple.
1. If I’m going to put my hand in the hand of the Man, and be a disciple I must spend time with Jesus.
I must spend time with Jesus – a lot of time with him. Because like any relationship, the more time you invest, the more you’re going to get out of it. You can’t be a disciple in just a few minutes a day. You’ve got to spend time. You’ve got to be in constant conversation. It’s a full-time responsibility.
Here’s what Jesus said in John 12 “If you want to be my disciple you must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them.”
You see spiritual growth is a choice. God’s not going to force you to grow. He leaves it up to you. So if you want to be my disciple then you must make the choice to grow; you must commit to grow. It’s not something that just happens. You’re as close to God as you choose to be.
Notice Jesus says, “You must come and follow.” You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to take action to grow.
This is true in every area of life. We grow by making commitments. Marriage causes you to grow up a lot. Have you noticed that? Having kids causes you to grow up. Anytime you make any kind of commitment it causes you to take a step of growth. Taking on a new job is a commitment which helps you grow. Choosing to go to college is a commitment that helps you grow. Anytime you make a commitment you grow.
Here’s the problem. You can’t be committed to everything. And you shouldn’t be committed to everything because not everything is worth being committed to. Part of my job as your pastor is to help you sort through all the commitments you’ve got and give you some guidelines, because you cannot be committed to everything. If you’re committed to everything you’re committed to nothing. Selection is the name of the game.
So what does that mean for us today? Obviously Jesus isn’t here physically. How do you spend time with Jesus today?
I mentioned one of the ways last week, but it bears repeating today. You talk to him all the time. You have a running conversation with Jesus Christ.
And the more time you spend with God, the more you talk with the Lord, the more you’re going to grow. If you only have a little quiet time every day you’re going to grow a little bit. If you only talk to the Lord on the weekends in church, you’re not going to grow much at all. But if you learn to talk to the Lord all the time, have a conversation about whatever is on your mind, you’re going to really start growing because it’s a relationship. Jesus said I’ve got to spend time with him if I want to be a disciple.
2. If I want to put my hand in the hand of the Master and be a disciple… to be a disciple I must love Jesus supremely.
In Luke chapter 14 he says this “If you want to be my follower you must love me. You must love me more than your own father and mother, your wife and children, your brothers and sisters – yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”
What’s he saying here? He’s saying that your love for God is to be so intense that everything else pales in comparison. That doesn’t mean you don’t love the other people. Actually the more you love God the more you’re going to love other people. But he’s saying exclusivity, supremacy, belongs to God. Because you wouldn’t have your family, you wouldn’t have your kids, you wouldn’t have the people you love, your friends, without God, so he says you’re to love God more than anything else.
I want you to get this. Spiritual growth is measured by love. It’s measured by how much you love. It’s not measured by how much you know. It’s not measured by your Bible knowledge. It’s not measured by your skills. It’s not measured by the words you say. It’s not measured by how much you attend church. Your spiritual maturity is measured by how much you love. How much you love God and how much you love others.
Again we talked about this last week. The Bible says in Mark 12, Jesus said “The most important command is this: you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” That’s radical devotion. When you love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength, you’re loving God radically. It means I love God more than anything or anyone else. And that as we learned last week is called worship.
3. The third key if I want to be a disciple, if I want to put my hand in His hand and grow spiritually, this is a little bit harder: I must love other people.
Uh-oh! Now we’re getting a little bit harder. It’s easy to love God because he’s perfect. But you’re not. And I’m not. Sometimes we’re irritating and sometimes we’re obnoxious. And sometimes we show our imperfections and our insecurities. Yet Jesus says, if you’re going to be my disciples you can’t just love me. You have to love everybody in my family. What is the family of God? It’s the church. It is the people of God. You have to love every other believer, every other Christian, every other follower of Jesus. Every other disciple.
Here’s what Jesus said in John 13 “If…” and by the way did you notice that every one of these sentences start with an “if” when he defines discipleship – conditional. “If you have love for one another, then everybody will know that you are my disciple.” Not just love for me but you love each other. He says the hallmark of being a follower of Jesus is not a bumper sticker. It is not a little Christian pin. It is not a gospel witness shirt, some clothes that you wear. He says the proof that you are my disciple is you love every other disciple. You love every other believer. You love the church of God.
This is pretty serious business. In fact, here’s what the Bible says in 1 John 4 “If someone says I love God but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar. [That’s pretty clear.] For if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God whom we have not seen?” Duh! This is obvious. So to be my disciple you must love other people in the family of God.
This is what makes having a relationship with Jesus different than religion. Did you know that in every single religion, the more you isolate yourself from humanity the more holy you’re considered to be? Whether it’s Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or anything else. The holiest people are those who go off in the mosques and the monasteries or the guru who hides in the caves in the mountains, who separate themselves from sinful humanity so they can’t become impure by all of us who are evil, wicked, mean, bad and nasty. So the more holy you are the more you separate yourself from earth and from other people.
That is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus was in the marketplace. Jesus went to the parties. Jesus was at the wedding turning water to wine. In fact, Jesus went to so many parties the legalistic religious leaders of the day said he is a “glutton and a drunk.” Because Jesus taught you can’t learn to love unless you’re around people.
That’s what it means to be a disciple. Not I love God, but I couldn’t care less about the church. No. God says if you love me you love my family. You can’t love me and not love my family because my family represents me. And we only grow in community being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus.
This is why being connected to a small group of some sort is absolutely essential to your spiritual growth. You can’t grow without it. Why? Because you can’t love a crowd. You can’t love this crowd. You can’t even love everybody on your row. You don’t even know everybody on your row, so how can you love them? And you don’t have to know everybody in the church to feel like it’s your church. But you do have to know somebody. You have to know three or four or five people, maybe six people in your small group, that when you get sick they know you’re sick. And when you’re in the hospital they know you’re in the hospital. And when you need a meal provided or you need a babysitter or you need a kind word or you have a loved one who died, you need an encouragement, those people are there.
So my hope for you is if you’re not connected to group of some sort, get connected.
I must spend time with Jesus, I must love him supremely, and I must love every other disciple. Those are the marks of discipleship.
4. Jesus says if I want to be a disciple, if I’m going to put my hand in His and follow, I must always do what Jesus tells me.
That’s the mark of a disciple. I must always do what Jesus tells me. It may not make sense. It may not be popular. It may cost me something. But it’s always the right thing because God’s not going to steer you in the wrong direction. If God tells you to do something it’s always the right thing to do. He’s saying that one of the marks of discipleship is I must obey him continually. I must always do what he tells me to do. John 8,“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my disciple. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
He says if you continue to obey my teaching then you’re truly my disciples. It’s not based on how much you know. It’s on how much you practice it. How much you obey. There are a lot of people who know the Bible but they don’t live it. Sometimes you can meet people who are veritable storehouses of Bible knowledge and they can quote Bible verses and they’re the most cranky, cantankerous, argumentative, judgmental people you will ever see. Knowledge without love leads to arrogance.
So God says I don’t measure your growth by how much you know. I measure your growth by how much you love. How much you love others, how much you love me. And he says it’s how much you obey.
5. Then finally if I’m going take the Master by the hand, I must serve others unselfishly.
I’ve got to learn to serve others. Service is a very, very important part of your spiritual growth, and your spiritual development. God says it’s not all taking in; it’s giving back. The Bible says if you want to be the most important person you must take the last place and be the servant to everyone else.
That’s about the most counter culture statement you can figure in America. He says if you want to be the most important person you’ve got to take the last place, be a servant to everybody else. God is saying that the kingdom of God values are the exact opposite of the world’s values. The world’s values say “It’s all about me... We do it all for you… It’s all about you… Have it your way... You deserve it… You’ve got to look out for number one.” The world says you are more important than anybody else.
That’s a way to be miserable in life. God says give your life away. The world’s value system says get everybody to serve you. And Jesus says, no, leadership is not dependent upon how many people serve you, but how many people you serve. The best leaders are those who are helping other people, not using the people to serve themselves. The world says live for yourself. God says give your life away.
Why is this so important? Let me give you a little advice. The key to happiness in life is to find significance. Happiness does not last unless you find significance in life and everybody wants their life to be significant.
The problem is we look in all the wrong places for significance. Success does not give significance because you can always find somebody who is more successful than you and you start feeling bad. You can be successful and it won’t give you significance. Salary doesn’t give you significance. You can make a lot of money, there’s nothing wrong with making money, you can make a lot of money but it won’t give you significance.
So significance doesn’t come from salary. It doesn’t come from success. It doesn’t come from status. The little symbols on your car or on your shirt.
It comes from service. Because God wired the universe that the only way your life takes on significance is you give it away. Why? Because God wants you to learn to be like him – unselfish. The most miserable people in life are self-centered, it’s all about me, I’m living for me, my pleasure, my needs, my comfort, it’s all about me. And that’s the way to be a miserable person.
The happiest people in life are those who give their lives away. They’re serving others. Whether they’ve got money or not doesn’t matter. Their significance gives them their satisfaction, their meaning, their purpose, their value in life.
So he says give your life away. Who’s our model for this? Jesus. Jesus said “For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and give my life as a ransom for many.” That defines the Christian life. The more you learn to serve and the more you learn to give, the happier you’re going to be. The more fulfilled you’re going to be. Because when you do that, God says, I’ve found somebody who gets it. I’m going to pour blessing into their lives.
This is not always easy. In fact it most often the most difficult path. Sometimes it comes at great cost or even requires sacrifice.
Jesus said it like this in Mathew 16, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
What does that mean? Take up your cross literally means to be willing to sacrifice for good and for God even if it means laying down your life.
It says “take up your cross.” That means be willing to die for Christ. You haven’t been asked to do that in America but all around the world a hundred thirty-seven thousand Christians did that this last year in the world – gave their lives. Gave their lives. They took up their cross because they were killed simply for believing in Jesus.
Jesus said if I’m going to be his disciple I’m going to spend time with him daily. I’ve got to love him supremely. I’ve got to love others humbly. I’ve got to obey him continually. I’ve got to serve others unselfishly.
What happens? If I do these five things that Jesus says to do and I become a disciple here’s what happens, “Jesus said ‘If you try to keep your life for yourself, you’re going to lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.’”
True life. Abundant life. Eternal life!
As I close this morning I want to borrow another line from the song. I want to ask you to close your eyes and as the song says, “Take a look at yourself.”