Holiness is Family Resemblance

You ever seen a kid who looks just like their Mom or Dad?  Upon seeing them together with their parents it is clear who they belong too.  The same is true of us as Christians?  How so?  Holiness.

Hebrews 12:14 says without holiness no one will see the Lord.  When people think of “holiness” they often think of monks crammed up into tiny little cloisters and uncomfortably scratchy robes, devoting themselves to the monastic lifestyle.  Is that what is really going on?  I don’t think so, and I hope you don’t either.

Holiness is not an ancient archaic form of godliness where one denies all the creature comforts and worldly pleasures, holiness is nothing more than family resemblance.  What do I mean?  Read 1 John 3:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)

Notice that those who sin will resemble the devil?  Notice those who practice righteousness resemble their Father, God?  God is holy (Isa. 6:1-4) and in His holiness He is making His family resemble Himself by creating children (1 John 3:1) who are holy as He is.  Why talk of this during our 8th Mark on discipleship?  Because holiness is the aim of discipleship, and without it, no one will see the Lord.

The question then comes to us: does our own life reveal sight of the Lord?  Or hide Him?

What is Discipleship?

Discipleship can be defined simply as: growing in Christ.

Discipleship can be defined complexly as: God making you into what He’s declared you to be, righteous.

All throughout the Bible it is clear that if you as a Christian are not moving up and into Christ, you are not standing still but moving backwards.  So we have no fence sitters in the Church, we are all either moving closer to Jesus or moving away from Him.  Where are you moving?  Keep in mind we all go through both of these two directions in our own lives, and I should also say we move slowly in our Christian growth rather than sprinting toward godliness or immorality.  We are snails.  And our growth is rather like the growth of an Oak tree, slow and steady.

The 9Marks site says it great:

What is Discipleship?

Scripture teaches that a live Christian is a growing Christian (2 Pet. 1:8-10). Scripture also teaches that we grow not only by instruction, but by imitation (1 Cor. 4:1611:1). Therefore churches should exhort their members to both grow in holiness and help others do the same.

Where is it in the Bible?

  • Peter exhorted his readers to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18)
  • Paul exhorted the Ephesians to grow by speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15).
  • Many passages in Scripture instruct us to imitate godly leaders (Phil. 4:9Heb. 13:7).

The point is that, according to Scripture, all Christians should grow in Christ, imitate other godly Christians, and encourage others in their growth in Christlikeness.

Why is it important?

  • Promoting biblical discipleship and growth is important because none of us are finished products. Until we die, all Christians will struggle against sin, and we need all the help we can get in this fight.
  • If a church neglects discipleship and growth, or teaches a skewed, unbiblical version of it, it will discourage genuine Christians and wrongly assure false Christians. On the other hand, if a church fosters a culture of Christian discipleship and growth, it will multiply believers’ efforts to grow in holiness.
  • A church that is not growing in the faith will ultimately yield an unhealthy witness to the world.

The Greatest Commandment – Be Making Disciples

We’ve come very far in our overview of the Marks of healthy churches.  Today we begin a look at Mark #8, discipleship.  So this week we’ll look at what it is, how it is done, and hear from two folks (Mark Dever / Robby Gallaty) who have done this very well.

But before we get to those things, I’ve got one concern today – the greatest commandment.  After Jesus rose from the grave yet before He ascended home to Our Father He said this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

This has been called the “Great Commission” down through the ages of church history and rightly so, for in it we find the joys to which we are called to as the Church.  Notice Jesus has all authority now?  Notice we are to reach the nations?  Notice we are baptize, teach, and feel the presence of Jesus to the end of the age?  It’s all great.  But there is one phrase that is often overlooked, “make disciples.”  This is how we reach the nations, this is how to exercise the authority of Christ, this is how the Church is taught, and this is what the Church is baptized into.  Spreading the gospel without discipleship is wicked.  Discipleship without a recognition of the authority of Christ is wicked.  Discipleship without Trinitarian baptism is wicked.  Discipleship is how the nations will be reached with the gospel, and how men and women will grow.

When people speak of Jesus’ greatest command He gave to the Church people often speak of John 13 and the command to love one another, and by this love all men will know we follow Him.  But what is love?  Giving people what they need when they deserve it the least.  What do we need most?  What do we, by our sin, deserve the least?  Both answers are one and the same – the gospel.  Therefore if giving people the gospel is the essence of love, than carrying out the command to bring this love to the nations via discipleship is the greatest command of Jesus ever given.

Church, discipleship must be the goal we seek to achieve with each other.  If we ignore this, are we really obeying Jesus or merely doing what is comfortable?  These two, comfort and obedience, are usually not friends.

Friends, disciple and seek to be discipled.  This is how we fulfill the Great Commission.