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56: Four Principles of Discipleship

May 14, 2009

Major Text: Matthew 18:12-35

Outline:

  1. Principles of Restoration Matt. 18:12-14
  2. Principles of Reconciliation Matt. 18:15-17
  3. Principles of Accountability Matt. 18:18-20
  4. Principles of Forgiveness Matt. 18:21-35

Context/Discussion/Comments:

There is more to discipleship than these four principles. In fact, Jesus has been teaching on discipleship ever since asking the question “Who do you say that I am?” in Lesson 50. For instance, in Lesson 50/51 we have the Principles of Commitment and Responsibility. In Lesson 52 we have the Principle of Hope. In Lesson 53 we have the Principle of Prayer. In Lesson 54 we have the Principles of Respect and Humility. In Lesson 55 we have the Principle of Servant-hood.

This Lesson is really kicked off by the question posed by Jesus at the end of Lesson 55; “Salt is good but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be restored again”? Jesus answers His question by telling the story of a shepherd who seeks to find the one lost sheep from his flock of 100.

Next Jesus gives us detailed instructions on resolving conflict and avoiding separation with one another. We are not to involve any more people than absolutely necessary. Instead of seeking revenge, we are to engage in a loving and respectful manner. Our purpose is to promote reconciliation instead of separation.

Jesus now repeats what He said earlier after hearing the correct confession of Peter in Lesson 50. We, as His disciples, are accountable and responsible toward one another and to Him. We are being trained by Him through the Holy Spirit. What happens on earth has an eternal effect. We need not act alone but rather seek out others for help and confirmation of the Lord’s will. When we on earth are united in purpose and in need, He promises to provide.

Jesus concludes His teaching by answering Peter’s question regarding how many times it is proper to forgive others. Jesus implies that we never stop forgiving and tells a story of about a wicked servant who was forgiven but did not practice forgiveness in return. The servant lost his forgiveness because he refused to practice forgiveness.

Let’s step back now and consider what we call the Lord’s Prayer. The middle petitions; “thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. The first two petitions speak to what Jesus is teaching in Section III; Principles of Accountability. The last speaks to Section IV; Principles of Forgiveness. The remaining petitions, before and after, tie in with some of the principles outlined in Lessons 50-55. You see, Jesus’ message never changes. He just teaches the same messages over and over in different ways hoping that one will be remembered and take root in our hearts and minds.

Lessons/Applications:

Become pure Salt through the practices of:

I. Restoration

  1. Determine which way you are traveling…..with the flock [Church] or away from the flock. Remember, the Good Shepherd seeks those who have strayed. If straying, cry out to the Lord so He may find you quickly.
  2. The Lord seeks individuals, not flocks.
  3. We are to remain obedient as He seeks to restore those straying. We are not to stray in His absence. We are not to follow another shepherd. We are to be obedient in welcoming home the one who has strayed.
  4. To be Christ-like [salt], we too must seek the lost and lovingly restore them.
  5. God is in the restoration business full time.

II. Reconciliation

  1. The wronged person is the one who must initiate the action of reconciliation.
  2. Confront/correct wrong behavior. Don’t ignore it.
  3. Not only are we responsible for our own actions, but we are responsible for the actions of our community: His Church.
  4. Ministry is most effective when it remains pure and is not subject to criticism. Our Lord is interested in maintaining the purity of His message and the purity of His messengers.

III. Accountability

  1. Actively participate in the Lord’s ministry. Be a soldier. Don’t be a spectator or, worse yet, a spectacle.
  2. We are being held accountable for the direction of His ministry before His return.
  3. We have a voice in His ministry and a freedom of expression. Believe it.
  4. Jesus expresses confidence in His disciples [us] and proclaims He is in our midst.

IV. Forgiveness

  1. The forgiven person is the one required to practice forgiveness. Daily seek forgiveness. Daily forgive others.
  2. Acknowledge the debt Christ paid for us. It helps us to obey His commandment to Love Him and to love our neighbor
  3. Proof of our forgiveness [Grace] is expressing just that, forgiveness and grace.
  4. The more you forgive, the more salty you become.

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