Disciplesby Jerry D. Olson

Let us start at the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry. Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27). Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matt. 4:19-20).

Additionally, Jesus said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14)

Then He said to His disciples,The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” (Matt. 9:37-38)

But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the Word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20)

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then, He will reward each according to his works.” (Matt. 16:26-27)

For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matt. 22:14)

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt. 24:44)

And when He brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” (John 10:4)

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit. (John 15:16)

Perhaps at this point in your reading, you are asking yourself, why is Jerry writing this article? I have read these same scriptures many times, perhaps hundreds of times before. Well, my answer as a former teacher and instructor is this: (I learned an important principle; one that paid big dividends for many of my students.) REPETITION IN LEARNING AND REMEMBERING SOMETHING CAN BE VERY HELPFUL!!

My question to all of us, me in particular, is this: If we are truly disciples, we should have some fruit as disciples, shouldn’t we? Is this not what our Lord Jesus is telling each of us with these scriptures?

Please don’t think you are alone in this. I have asked myself over and over, why has my life been changed so drastically in just the last few weeks. I ask myself, why is this happening to me? Could it be that I thought that I was in a good place with my Lord, doing His work? Am I not doing what Jesus told His called-out ones to do? Could this be me? The faces are different now; the distance from my usual stomping ground is major; world troubles are greater, increasing at an unusual rate of speed. There is more division, and more evil; spiritual darkness is everywhere we look. Is this perhaps why the harvest is so great? And why people need to be told about our Lord and Savior? These major changes have caused me to question everything in my life. I believe these are signs that show our Lord’s Return is very near. Am I ready? So I am asking each of us – all of us – ask yourself, ‘how am I doing?’ ‘Where is my daily focus?’ ‘Is it where it should be?’ ‘How is my witnessing for the Lord?’ ‘How are my disciples doing – those that I am mentoring?’ ‘Is my life producing disciples for Christ Jesus?’ ‘Why did Jesus have disciples?’ ‘My life, and the life of every Christian, should be producing obvious fruit. Are those that I am working with in the Lord, are they too teaching others the importance of reading the Scriptures daily?’ ‘Are they having Bible studies and sharing meals together, taking walks with each other and developing close relationships in Christ that are lasting and real?’ These are legitimate and pertinent questions that each of us as professing disciples of Jesus must seriously consider and ask ourselves!

There are those written about in Scripture that went above and beyond many others in their zeal for God. And they are meant as examples for us to follow (I Cor. 10:11). “Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” (Num. 25:7-9). We can look at the life of others who made Godly decisions and righteous choices like Joseph, Jacob’s obedient son. His father Jacob gave him a coat of many colors, perhaps as a witness and a sign of how Joseph faithfully stood out among his brothers, and did not partake of their evil and disobedient ways. And because of his faithfulness and loyalty, God gave Joseph a divine destiny by way of dreams at a young age. Joseph suffered many things – approximately thirteen years of injustice – before he was raised to a very prominent post, a trustee that even saved his own family Israel. It is as if God is showing us, the higher your future office, the greater your trials. I often think of Joshua who led Israel into the Promised Land, being another leader who understood God’s heart and will. It states in Scripture that Israel followed God’s way while Joshua lived. Samuel who served God from his formative years until the very end of his life, being a true servant of God who knew how important and necessary it was that he and all of Israel follow God’s instruction to the absolute letter.

Conversely, there are also many negative examples of people recorded in the Bible who did not do very well at following the Lord; even though, at one time in their life, they were at the very top of the ladder, enjoying prominent positions and having positions of influence. These were far from pleasing God! There was Esau who gave up his birthright because it wasn’t important to him. And as a result, he lost out on the great honor of God being known as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.” Instead, God is now known as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” – Esau’s younger brother!

We also read about Korah: a prominent leader in Israel in the book of Numbers who died along with a number of other leading men when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them alive; and also, how fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured two hundred and fifty rebellious leaders in Israel, thus becoming a perpetual warning sign to all of Israel and to us today. There was King Saul, the very first king of Israel who did his own thing, who desired to please men more than to please God. There is the example of King Solomon who – perhaps was the richest man physically and the wisest man early on in his life when he was humble – allowed fleshly pride and the influence of foreign women along with their false gods, to bring him down to a place where he no longer followed and pleased God.

Think of the young man on the road who came running up to Jesus, and kneeling down before Him, asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22).

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Fortunately for all of us, God is love. He cares much for His children, and He has provided grace through faith as a gift (Eph. 2:8) and has made forgiveness possible for all through His Son Jesus. However, each in their proper order and in God’s appointed time (I Cor. 15:22-23). God formed man from dust and gave him life; both an earthly life and the possibility of eternal life after death – an opportunity to become sons of the Most High God. In the book of Romans, we read: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). In Scripture, God’s Word, Jesus tells us that in Him our very lives are recorded in the “Book of Life” (Rev. 3:5; 21:27).

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” (Phil. 4:3)

Brethren, the Church is under evaluation during our life here on earth. The called of God, the saints of God, His own special people, those of us professing to be “believers” – we, collectively speaking, are the Church, the body of Christ! We are under judgment and are given a more thorough evaluation; yes, we have been given a steeper hill to climb. We have been called from the beginning of creation to be a special and unique group of people, set apart by God to follow and obey Him. Let us therefore be reminded again – that those from the very beginning who faithfully lived and died being found in the Way (that is, in Christ Jesus) will rise first to meet the Lord. These were individuals that had great faith, and much love; were obedient to the Word; and were willing to go the extra mile, and who sacrificed to achieve a higher calling. Ask yourself, is God pleased with how I have used my time during this earthly life He has given me? No one, of course, knows just exactly how they are doing and how his/her evaluation is proceeding as we all venture through this course. However, I sincerely believe that it is far better in the eyes of God to risk being labeled an “over achiever” by Him (if this is even possible?), than to be found lacking and barely make it into His Family by the narrowest of margins! I think you will agree. God, like the Marines, is looking for a few good men and women. Will you be one of those faithful ones that God rewards when Jesus returns?

Despite what you may have been erroneously taught in the past by some churches, the Bible actually teaches that those who have died already, not knowing the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during their lifetime, will still be given an opportunity to know the truth and to be grafted into His Family! For whatever reason many were not called during their lifetimes on earth and were not yet given an opportunity to know their Savior (aborted babies, for example.) Or, some may have been called, but chose instead to proceed in a contrary way at this time. God gives us free will. However, the Bible teaches that even if a person did not believe in Jesus prior to their earthly death, they are not necessarily lost (see Ezek. 37:3-14). They will yet come to the knowledge of the truth in the future. In fact, truth be told, the majority of people who have ever lived will be resurrected in the future and given a real opportunity to hear the truth of God and to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

God didn’t create humans to destroy them. God our loving Father is much wiser than that! What does this particular Scripture communicate to you? Jesus speaking, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them [not even one] falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)

But Jesus also said: “No one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:44; 6:65)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (I Cor. 15:20-23)

This First Resurrection takes place at the beginning of the Millennium – the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. At the return of Jesus, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, and Satan will then be removed for one-thousand years. Jesus and His saints will then be in control ruling over all the nations. These resurrected saints will be given spiritual bodies and will now be a part of Christ’s administration ruling here on earth with King Jesus. These resurrected saints include those who had previously died in Christ and those faithful Christians who are still alive on earth at His Return. This is the good news (the “Gospel” – which means “good news”)!

This was all part of Father God’s plan from the very beginning before the foundation of the universe was established! The Son of God was to be the Sacrifice for all of us from the beginning: For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” (I Cor. 5:7). “The Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government will be no end.” (Isa. 9:6-7)

Behold, the eyes of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” (Psa. 33:18-19)

Enter into the Rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isa. 2:10-11)

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:30-32)

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed these is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isa. 44:6-8)

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom [an earnest-deposit, retainer, His own blood] for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle [one sent] – I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying – a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Tim. 2:3-7)

Brethren, Christ Jesus is our only answer in so many ways. Sin had to be dealt with. Satan had to be dealt with. Yes, even the world and its ways! Jesus is the Rock of our salvation, our King, our Messiah, the Anointed. He is the only One because He was God in the flesh as Jesus. He lived a life without sin, the only true sacrifice able to redeem us. He was crucified for all of mankind, for everyone who has ever lived this earthly life. He purchased us with His own blood, and obediently took the cup knowing what was just ahead of Him, the cross. He asked the Father if there was another way that our redemption could be accomplished; but also added the words, with complete obedience and humility: Nevertheless, not My way or My will, but Yours, Father.” Our Lord died, was resurrected, and was glorified. And as a result of His love and obedience, He has taken His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil. 2:8-11).

Jesus told His disciples:“In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)

We have a number of great examples in Scripture to follow and to get inspiration. We have those I listed before plus others of the New Covenant like Stephen, Peter, and Paul. All three of these men and many many more were killed for their belief, witness and example. All of Christ’s original disciples but Judas Iscariot and John who wrote the book of Revelation were sacrificed as martyrs. Killing Christians is still happening today as we know; and perhaps a few of us living here at the end will have a similar evaluation and experience.

We have the life of Paul to look to as an example to live by. In his own words in Philippians chapter 3, Paul described how he was at the top of his fleshly game, so to speak, before his conversion. He lists his life’s history; how he was circumcised according to the law on the 8th day; was from the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, he was a zealous Pharisee; even was trained at the feet of Gamaliel; and a model Roman citizen. “But what things were gain to me,” Paul wrote, “these are no longer important to me, I count them as rubbish [like a dirty rag], that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” (Phil. 3:7-9). I know of no one in Scripture that had more zeal than Paul; did more work, ministered, and traveled more miles for the gospel of Christ Jesus. He penned more Scripture under his name than anyone. A man who had many that followed him, yes many disciples. A true servant of God, right up to the day he was martyred for his faith and commitment for his walk and life in Christ Jesus. However his early exposure, to the Way, was kinda rocky, you might say. He had the zeal of a highly driven man; he was a son of a Pharisee, and a devoted Pharisee himself, arresting and murdering Christians in religious fervor. Regarding the law, no one could hold a candle to him. He was the guy, and as such, he established himself as both judge and jury. But on the road to Damascus his whole life changed in dramatic fashion. Jesus revealed Himself to Paul and it completely changed him. Ananias was sent to him to pray for him and to baptize him, laying his hands on him for his healing so that he would receive his sight (both physically and spiritually, so to speak!). Speaking of Paul, the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16).

Soon after his encounter with our Lord, Paul went to the wilderness to receive special instruction from the Lord Jesus via the Holy Spirit. He didn’t travel to Jerusalem to learn from the Apostles, but instead the resurrected Jesus Christ personally taught him by way of divine revelation (Gal. 1:11-12). He learned early on in his ministry not to care about what other men thought, but to follow the truth of the gospel. Paul even rebuked Peter once for his obvious hypocrisy that he had been wrongly demonstrating to the brethren (Gal. 2:11-16).

Paul humbly wrote: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

In other words, Paul was declaring here that he was trying very hard to complete his mission, his duty as a witness, and as a disciple turned apostle; and that he was striving to do his part, his very best for the Kingdom. Paul was demonstrating to the Lord Jesus and to all the brethren that he was clearly “ALL IN,” using today’s vernacular. Yet, he knew at the same time that he hadn’t arrived at his final destination yet. Until our human death and subsequent resurrection, we all wait to see what God will establish for us individually, what we will be given, and the reward and prize we will receive for running and finishing our race. We are judged by our Lord as individuals not as a group. Even husbands and wives in this physical life will be judged apart, separate. We each are individually accountable to God for what we know, and for what we do and don’t do.

The disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn so that I should heal them.”’ (Matt. 13:10-15)

So let’s keep focused on the goal – those of us who want everything God has for us! If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it! Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him.”(Phil. 3:15-21, The Message).

In closing, may we trust in the Lord, obeying Him, and do what He expects of us as His disciples, bringing others to the truth of the saving power that’s in Christ Jesus. And may our sincere and earnest efforts be pleasing to God our Father!

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