“"Raised in the Church" or Disciple of Jesus?”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
Tonight’s sermon is yet another sermon-request sermon, and in this case, I was asked to preach on the difference between someone who attends services because they were "raised in the church" and someone who is here because they are a disciple of Jesus. This is a relevant subject to many of us because it touches on the two-edged nature of having been brought up by godly parents.
On the one hand, godly parents are a great gift. I myself benefited immeasurably because both of my parents were devoted Christians and raised me accordingly. However, with that gift, there comes a trap, the trap of free-riding on our parents’ faith and never developing a faith of our own. If all we do is show up here because Momma and Daddy did, but we never truly commit our hearts to the Lord, we’re no better off than if we spent our Sunday mornings watching Captain Kangaroo! Lest we ourselves fall into this trap, let’s consider this evening the difference between someone who is raised in the church and someone who is a disciple of Jesus.
I see three primary differences here, and the first is that someone who is merely raised in the church honors the traditions of the church, but a disciple of Jesus honors His word. Consider what Jesus has to say about the dangers of tradition in Matthew 15:7-9.
We often use this verse to wag our fingers at all those tradition-following denominations, but this can be just as big a problem within the Lord’s church. When people go to churches of Christ but don’t know the word of Christ, the practices of their church basically become their Bible. What they see becomes their standard of right and wrong.
This is problematic because it elevates human tradition to the level of God’s word, which is exactly what Jesus is criticizing in Matthew 15. Like every church under heaven, the Jackson Heights church has human traditions. However, if we don’t know the Scriptures, we won’t be able to distinguish between the things we do out of tradition and the things we do because they are commanded.
Let me give you an example. Several years ago, a preacher friend of mine happened to be waiting on the Lord’s table during the second serving, and afterward, when he offered another opportunity to contribute to the Lord’s work, he prayed before passing the plate. After services were over, an older sister came up to him and ripped him up one side and down the other. She said that her late husband had been a deacon and an elder in the church, and never had she seen anyone do anything as disgraceful as praying before the collection on Sunday night!
Now, is there anything unscriptural about offering such a prayer? Of course not! However, because the traditions of her church had become this sister’s Bible, when he violated those traditions, she reacted as strongly as if he had violated the word.
Brethren, that attitude is the fountainhead of apostasy! All of us are responsible for knowing why we do what we do, and being able to distinguish between God’s commandment and human tradition. There’s only one way to get there—by returning to the word again and again until we understand the commandments of the Lord for ourselves.
Second, where someone who is merely raised in the church will be content with staying the same spiritually, a true disciple will seek to grow in Christ. Consider the Hebrews writer’s critique of the failure to grow in Hebrews 5:11-14. Of course, there are all too many Christians who were not raised in the church who fail to grow anyway, but spiritual immaturity is certainly one of the hallmarks of the generational Christian.
Again, the basic problem here is making the church and not the word our standard. After all, when do all of us see the most Christians? It’s during our Sunday morning assembly. Thus, if you’re getting your information about Christianity from the practice of the church, you will conclude that the thing that you do in order to be a Christian is to come to church on Sunday morning.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think coming to church on Sunday morning is great! I know there are younger Christians here who are fighting hard to make regular church attendance part of their routine, and I applaud that.
Yes, being a disciple of Jesus involves coming to church, but it does not consist of coming to church. And yet, to all appearances, there are lots of Christians who think that discipleship is about churchgoing. There they are, year after year, decade after decade, filling a pew, but they never do anything, and they never seem bothered by their inaction. They are the thorny ground in the parable of the sower, and we know how Jesus feels about Christians who never bear fruit!
This evening, then, let’s each of us pause to take inventory of ourselves. Let’s each of us cast our mind back 10 years and remember the kind of Christian we were then. If you haven’t been a Christian for 10 years, remember who you were when you obeyed the gospel. Then, compare the old you to the current you. Has there been a change? For that matter, has the change been good?
Are you, for instance, better about reading the Bible regularly than you were 10 years ago? Do you pray more frequently? Do you spend more of your time in serving others? Are you more willing to share your faith with outsiders? Do you contribute more generously than you used to?
There are many other possible questions, but they all make the same point. If we are not changing for good, we are not growing, and if we aren’t growing, we aren’t faithful disciples of Jesus.
Finally, those who are raised in the church seek to please others, but the disciple seeks to please God. Look at Paul’s question in Galatians 1:10. Indeed, we can say that if we primarily are seeking to please others, we are not disciples of Christ, whether we are in this building or not.
Often, this has to do with our relationship with our families. Many of us have had the frustrating experience of teaching someone the gospel, pointing out the truth about baptism, and having them say in reply, “I can’t believe that, because if it’s true, then Grandma went to hell.” They are more loyal to their families than they are to God and His word.
Sadly, there are all too many church-of-Christ attendees who come out of family loyalty too. They belong to the Lord’s church because Grandpa did, but if Grandpa had belonged to a denomination, that’s where they would be.
Arguably even worse are those who attend services to keep peace in the family. They have no faith of their own, but they come because it’s easier than falling away would be. I saw a particularly tragic example of this in Illinois. A brother returned to the Lord after decades out of duty, and he came back with such zeal that he brought his family with him. They filled a whole pew!
However, some years after that, he died, and after the funeral was over, I don’t believe I ever saw any of them again. They weren’t following God. They were following Daddy. They were following Grandpa.
Brethren, ain’t nobody going to get to heaven by following their family! It’s not enough for Jesus to be Mama’s Savior and Daddy’s Savior. He has to be our Savior. We have to love Him ourselves, with all of our heart, and all of our mind, and all of our strength. We have to love Him so much that we are willing to abandon our earthly family. Only then are we truly His disciples.