Discipleship 4: John, Mark, 2 Timothy Message

Discipleship 4: John, Mark, 2 Timothy Message

HOW TO BE WITH JESUS IN HIS WORD

John 1:1-14, Mark 4:13-20, John 15:1-8, 2 Timothy 3:14-17

John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
In the last lesson, we learned that we should be with Jesus and grow in a church. Jesus is not on earth anymore, but he promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are living with Christ. When we repent and accept Jesus in our hearts, Jesus promised to give us the Holy Spirit, who testifies about Jesus, teaches us sin, righteousness and judgement, and gives us gifts which can be used to edify the church.

Today, we learn another way of being with Jesus, which is living according to the word of God in depth. We will meditate on the characteristics of God’s word, how to live with Christ in his word, and the result of living a life of a true disciple. May God grant each one of us the Holy Spirit to accept the word of God!

I. Jesus, the Word and the Characteristics of the Word

John 1:1 and 14 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Here the Word is Jesus the personified God. Jesus called his disciples to be with him, but we cannot be with him because Jesus is not on earth, but he promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit and through His word because Jesus is the Word, God, the Creator of all things, the heavens and the earth, incarnated into this world. In Greek, the Word is Logos, the reason behind the universe, which means that Jesus is the reason behind the universe. Apostle Paul also proclaimed, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16-17) When Matthew, the former tax collector, thought about this God incarnated in human form, he could not but say, “Immanuel, God with us!” What a blessing the 12 disciples had that the holy and mighty, yet humble and lowly God was with them! Yet, we do not need to envy them; we can be with Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit and through his words (Jn 15:7a).

What are the characteristics of Jesus as the word of God? Let’s meditate on a few characteristics. First, the word of God has creation power. In Genesis 1, whenever God spoke, there was the work of God’s creation. Ps 33:9 says, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Whenever Jesus spoke, it came to be as well. When Jesus commanded to the wind and waves, they calmed down. He created more than 10,000 fish sandwiches out of 5 loaves and 2 fish. Whenever a person believed and obeyed his word, they experienced Jesus’ creation power. After Jesus applied the mud saliva ointment on the eyes of the man born blind, he told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9). When the blind man obeyed Jesus’ command, his eyes were opened and he could see.

Secondly, the word of God is eternal. 1 Peter 1:24-25 says, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Everything else changes, but the word of God endures forever. Everything in this world will disappear, but the word of God will stand forever. Even mathematical principles can change as conditions change, so 1 plus 1 is not always 2 but can be 1. Kingdoms and kings rise and wane. The once world power nation, Rome, disappeared to a small country Italy, and the Roman Emperor’s great name Caesar became the name of the cheapest pizza. But the word of the Lord was fulfilled by sending the Messiah in a manger. Humanly, Jesus was a helpless baby, but Jesus fulfilled God’s world salvation work through his death and resurrection. Jesus’ birth divided the history from BC to AD and we know that his prophesy will be fulfilled. Jesus, declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” We can’t rely on President Trump’s words because human words are unreliable. In this uncertain world, we can rely on one thing for sure, that is the word of Jesus. Jesus’ word is our sure foundation. Our faith and salvation are based on Jesus’ word and action.

Thirdly, Jesus’ words are life-giving. John 5:24-25 says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and who hear will live.” It is life-giving, saving us from eternal death to eternal life! Salvation comes from hearing the voice of Jesus. When the dead Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus, “Lazarus, come out!” there was the work of regeneration with new flesh and blood infused into the dead man and the new Lazarus came out of the tomb. When Jesus touched a coffin, the dead young man got up and lived a new life. Likewise, there have been so many spiritually dead people who heard the voice of Jesus, were changed and lived a new life for Christ and His kingdom.

There was one young man who could not find meaning of his life and attempted suicide many times, but when he came to hear Jesus’ words, a miracle happened; he repented of his sins and began to live a new life and later became a missionary. This reminds us of Jn 6:63, saying, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” May God bless us to believe in the power of Jesus’ word and share it, so that those who are spiritually dead may hear the life-giving word of God and live new life, the life that is full of God’s grace and power!

II. How to be with Jesus in his word and the effect of being with Christ in his word.

Here we will meditate on three aspects of being with Christ. First, being with Jesus in his word is listening and meditating on his word. When we meditate on the word of God, we become like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season. (Ps 1:2-3) It is like a process of a seed growing to be a tree and bearing much fruit. According to Mark 4, the parable of the sower, Jesus compared his word to a seed and our hearts to the soil. As the seed has life that can grow and bear much fruit, so does Jesus’ word, according to what kind of heart soil we have as we listen to Jesus. There are four kinds of heart soil. First, a path-like heart soil: this is a hardened heart that rejects Jesus’ words as soon as hearing it. It is like a heart so many people have walked on. In this internet generation, a person’s heart may become like a path, as so much information overflows in one’s heart through Google search or watching YouTube channels, treating Jesus’ words as just another kind of information.

Secondly, rocky soil. Mark 4:16-17 says, “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” This is like the person who emotionally accepts Jesus’ words but no endurance at the time of growth, when they are tested whether to obey the word of God or give into their desires or situation. There was one young man who believes that God gave him a vision to be a great man of God. But whenever he is tested to live according to the word of God, he gives into his feelings, saying, “No one is perfect, right?” I pray that he may take rocks of making excuses out of his heart and take a deeper root in Jesus’ words.

Thirdly, a thorny soil. 4:18 says, “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word: but the worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the plant, making it unfruitful.” In farming, after taking the rocks from the soil, it becomes good soil, but weeds and thorns come into the good soil and grow even though you did not plant them. If you are a farmer, you would diligently pull the weeds and thorns in order for the seed grow and bear fruit; otherwise, they will choke the plant, making it unfruitful. The spiritual weeds and thorns are fundamentally three things: the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things. This means that while we live a life of faith, these three things always come to our heart soil. Sometimes we worry about ourselves and others, especially when the future is uncertain. Sometimes, we think that things may get better when we have a little more money. Sometimes, we are distracted from living according to the word of God, but want to find out any other method of living, being tempted by pleasure seeking or an easy-going life. Just as a farmer pulls the weeds, we have to pull them from our hearts through repentance.

Finally, the good soil. What happens when we maintain our heart as good soil, just like a farmer working hard, pulling the weeds every day? Look at verse 20. “Others, like seed sown on good soil, here the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” When we maintain our heart soil well, Jesus guarantees that we will bear a lot of fruit, at least 30 times what was sown. What would you do if you find a stock guaranteed at least 30 times in return? Don’t you want to invest all you have if you can get a return of at least 30 times? As a shrewd business man, I am testifying that the word of Jesus is true and that God has returned to me more than 30 times my life investment for Christ and His kingdom. In addition, I am looking forward to his reward in his kingdom as well.

Second, being with Christ in his word is remaining in his word. In John 5:7a,5, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you,” “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” How can the word of Jesus remain in us? In ESV, it is translated as, “my words abide in you” which means the word of Jesus guiding our lives. In other words, my life is guided by Jesus’ words. It is obedience to his word, which is the expression of our love to Jesus. If we love Jesus, we obey not our own desires but Jesus’ word. This proves ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples.

Also in John 8:31-32, “Jesus said to those who believe in him. ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” There are true disciples who hold onto the word of God. When a person wants to hold onto something, he or she has to struggle not to let it go. It is the same struggle to remain in Jesus’ word, obeying it through denying oneself. Then the person will know the truth. The truth is that all human beings are disobedient sinners and Jesus is the way and the truth and life; no one comes to the Father except through him. As we struggle to obey Jesus’ word, we experience freedom from sin and the power of death, and bear fruit—the fruit that will last, inside and outside.

There was one young missionary who went to a mission field without any money and her husband was a student and kind of jobless when she married him. When she thought about her future life, it was totally uncertain and even anxious. But she struggled to hold onto Matthew 6:33, and sought the kingdom of God through sharing the gospel of Jesus and raising disciples of Jesus, serving them with food though her family did not have much. Some people thought that they should declare bankruptcy, but God has provided all the necessary things, they never felt lacking anything materially and spiritually with three children. God’s word gives true disciples victory over human thinking. Amen!

Lastly, being with Jesus in his word is putting his word into practice. Previous aspects are concluded in this. If we hear the life-giving word of God and do not put it into practice, we are building our life of faith on sand. But when we put Jesus’ word into practice, we are building our faith on the rock. Nothing can shake our faith because we have experienced the power of Jesus’ word. The word of God is not just knowledge but living and active as Heb 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrows; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” When we meditate on the word of God, it convicts not only our actions but even our thoughts and attitudes.

At that time, it requires obedience to change our attitude and/or action. A lot of times, people would not change their actions, saying, “If another person changes, I will change.” Well, we cannot change other’s action, but ours only. It is not you but up to them to change theirs. Our standard is not another human being but Jesus and his word. 1 John 2:5-6 says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” By obeying Jesus’ word, we are made complete. Some may say that I do not know what to do because there is no specific word applying to my situation. At that time, we should meditate with the topic, “What would Jesus do in my situation?” If we truly struggle in Christ, I believe the Holy Spirit will speak to the person what to do accordingly.

Someone may even ask, “How can I keep all the word of God?” First of all, if we truly love God and love our neighbor, we may be able to keep them. But it should start with one word of God, just as God gave Adam only one verse. Often it is the word of God contrary to our desire or feeling or comfortable situation so that we may deny ourselves and follow the way of Christ. In this way, a disciple may be equipped for the work of God. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 summarized the process of a disciple growing through being with Jesus in his word: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As we learn how to be with Jesus in his word, we will be a servant of God whom God can use for the work he wants us to do. Amen!

One young man shared his refection on his poor attitude toward his parents as he is staying at home with them 24 hours 7 days. As he struggled in Christ, the word of God, “Honor your father and mother,” came into his heart. Then, he made decision to change his attitude toward his parents by making breakfast for them. When he did so, their attitude changed. What a wonderful attitude toward the word of God!

In conclusion, as we learn to live with Christ in his word, we become wise in salvation through meditating on the word of God, understanding God’s unfathomable way of salvation in Jesus Christ. We learned what it means to live by faith through obedience. The word of God sometimes rebukes us to repent of our sins, sometimes correct our wrong actions, sometimes teaches us the deeper knowledge of God and trains us to have a right relationship with God and others. As we hold on to the word of God, so we can experience the power of Jesus’ word, overcoming human desire and temptations. When we apply the word of God in our lives, we will bear fruit—fruit that will last, at least 30 times that was sown. In this way, a disciple is thoroughly equipped for every good work God has prepared in advance for him or her to do.

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