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Discipleship

The Call to Discipleship

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Read Matthew 4:18-19; Romans 15:1- 13

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. … There is trust in God, but no following of Christ. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What is a disciple? Jesus said, Follow Me (Matt. 4:19; 9:9). Jesus did not mean that they should just physically follow Him on the road, as we really can't do that now. Rather, this is a call to be set apart, challenged, andtaught so we see and adhere to the call and mission Christ gives us. The word "disciple" literally means someone who pledges to be a "learner." Moreover, it is someone who follows another's teaching, and adheres to it. It is a commitment and a process to undertake the learning, and, as a Christian, a yearning to imitate Jesus!

So, are you a Christian who really seeks to follow Jesus? If not, what is in the way of His Way? What could possibly be better for you and those around you?

Discipleship is more than a call; it is a lifestyle that is never to stop, that must never stop until we are called home to eternity with our Lord. It is the instigation and flow for the Christian life; it is our continual devotion, worship, learning, growth, and practice in Christ as LORD over all.

Discipleship is also reciprocal. That is, when one learns, he/she makes the commitment to train someone else. That is what Jesus meant by, "I will make you fishers of men." It is not just catching them and then storing them (fish were processed and sold for the betterment and use of the community). It is training, and placing, so they, too, can catch, train, and place! Discipleship is the primary earthly goal of the Church as a whole, and of the Christian as an individual. It is our duty, and the one thing Christ directly commands us to do (Matt. 28:19-20). In so doing, we will become like Him in character and share His outlook and concerns (Luke 6:39-40). We are never to make disciples in our image-who we are or how we think, feel, and act-but in the image of Christ!

  • We are to become His disciples!
  • We are to be discipled!
  • We are to disciple others so they can, in turn, disciple others.
  • If you are a pastor or church leader, you can't lead others to know and grow in Christ unless you are growing in Christ yourself. If you dare to do so, you are slapping Christ in the face with your feeble pride!

This is all about living our lives for Christ-following, learning, listening, observing, and experiencing life directly with Jesus through His Word along with council and instructions from godly, mature Christians. Then, we are to carry that learning and experience to others (Matt. 10:1-15; the Book of Acts).

Are you still thirsting? Christ gives the invitation not only to others but to you. He is the fountainhead. He has died and is risen. He offers the only way to eternal life, asking only that you admit your need, raise the empty hands of faith, and accept His gift. What is eternal life? It is meaning in life now as well as living one's life forever. Drink deep. Jesus offers a brimming cup. -Francis Schaeffer

It all comes down to a decision. Will we make our faith real and impacting, relinquishing our pride so we can learn and grow and, in turn, teach others, or will we plant our rears in the pew, so that our only impact is our butt prints in that pew?!

Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and passed on to the people around us!

What we need to learn for today:

Discipleship has a cost. Following Christ will cost us, requiring effort and consistency (Matt. 8:18-22; 10:38; Luke 9:57-58; 14:27). The original disciples left their families and good jobs (Matt. 10:37; 19:27; Luke 9:59-62; 14: 25-26; 33)! Jesus did not call "bums" who had nothing better to do!

Jesus expects us to know what we are getting into and embrace it with vigor and faith. Nothing can come before Him (Matt. 3:8; 6:33; Luke 14:15-24; John 8:31; 14-15)!

The cost is worth it! We must embrace our call and responsibility to be discipled and make disciples! If we are truly willing to learn and apply what Christ taught, we will truly be His disciples! The Church will be on fire by the Spirit and will impact the world! What we gain will far outweigh any suffering or loss on our part (Mark 10:28-30; 1 Cor. 15:58)! If and when we hear God's call depends on our ears, our will, and our attitude (Matt. 22:14).

God does not force or plead with us; He merely presents us with the option (Isaiah 6:8)! We must say, as Isaiah said, "Here I am, send me!" For real discipleship to take place, we must allow our spiritual eyes to be opened and our will to be relinquished to His. Then, our churches will grow in prayer, worship, and maturity-so revival may take place!

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Are you doing that? Let us allow the power of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and break our wills so we can be receptive to our Lord and Savior, and so we can do as He called us to do!

We are called to mentor and instruct others in the faith for Christ's glory! This is what Discipleship is all about, yet it seems this is not done in many of today's churches! Sometimes, the opposite is done! Paul also opens his heart to his readers and to us, and becoming very vulnerable and candid. He seeks their prayers and support. And, in his final closing, he is still overflowing with the magnitude of the greatness of God's grace! Emperor Nero may have martyred him, but his voice prevails today, nearly 2000 years later, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul in the Romans passage challenges us in several categories:

  • Condescension of the weak and the lost is an extreme assault both on the character of our Lord and on His instruction to us!
  • A Christian must never, ever be so filled with pride that he or she is arrogant and callous toward others!
  • The mature Believer should be able to give up his or her selfish desires and inclinations for the good of others, so to be an example of Christ.
  • The Bible was written for our benefit and instruction, and filled with hope, purpose, and meaning to enable us to live the Christian life.
  • Paul prays for love and concord among the Believers for the worship of God-the chief basis for the church.
  • The Scriptures prophesy the coming together of Jew and Gentile in the service and glory of God.
  • Paul passionately urges the Christians in Rome (and us, too) that who we are in Christ must be demonstrated by relating to others.
  • We are called to glorify Christ in all that we do! This includes Paul, the Apostle, as well as us as Believers.
  • Paul then tells us of his experience and passion as a missionary raising support because his Call needed to be supported. Paul, in modeling, speaking, and writing directs us to the urgency of the Gospel and the need of the world to hear it. He desires prayers and respect. We must give the same to one another.
  •  We must be careful not to put down others whose faith is not strong.
  • Be willing and able to disciple others in the faith with guidance, support, and in prayer.
  • Live as an encourager to others.

The call for us is in the realm of basic Discipleship. The more experienced and mature Christian is called to walk alongside new and less mature Christians to help them grow so they can glorify Christ.

The true follower of Christ will not ask, "If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?" Rather he will say, "This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!" -- A.W. Tozer

To be a real, effectual disciple of Christ means we live a life that is disciplined to His precepts and obedient to His will and Spirit. There is no way we can lead others to Him when we are not being discipled ourselves. Unless we are committed to His Way, we will go nowhere of real meaning in our Christian life!

  • For Discipleship to happen, Christians are to remove all aspects of pride and arrogance from their thinking and actions! The mature Christian has the obligation-the imperative command-to disciple others with time, love, and patience.
  • In the above passages, the Jewish Christians were trying to force unneeded commands and procedures on the new Gentile converts. They were exercising their own version of lordship to the exclusion of Christ. We cannot flaunt ourselves because of our maturity or lack of it. We are to be dedicated to unity rather than to strife and envy.
  • Envy is one of the most destructive forces on earth, and will bring down leaders and ministries faster than the imagination can allow! Christ's focus was pleasing God and helping others. What is yours?
  • In verse three, which is one of the most quoted passages in the New Testament, Paul is quoting Psalm 69:9. Since God was able to deny Himself, it is ludicrous to think that our pride is bigger than Him so that we do not need to be humble! Yet, many Christians act as though this were true! We forget that our Lord suffered for the benefit of others, and to the exclusion of Himself. This must be our model and pattern in service to others, the reason for the importance of being humble (1 Pet. 5).
  • The Scriptures were written for us-for our benefit, for our learning, and for our growth (1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), all by divine inspiration! Do we acknowledge God's Word the way we do money? Do we trust others to handle our money, but not trust them to disciple our souls? All this must transpire by our unity (vs. 1:21-23; 3:23; 5:2, 11; 8:17-30; 10:8-10).
  • From our studying, to our mentoring, to our governing, to our hospitality, to our public encounters-all must be done by one mind and mouth. We must work as a body, maintaining our individual personalities, but having unified vision and purpose to glorify God. If this is not so, the result will be chaos and strife-Satan's favorite playground! We cannot glorify God in the midst of envy and strife or in the presence of anger and bitterness. We cannot be known for our negatives, for they will accomplish nothing. Our focus must be on the positives.
  • We as Christians have a debt to pay because of our gratitude for what Christ has done. We must consider reaching the lost as an opportunity to obey our call. The whole purpose of the Jewish nation was to model God's redemptive plan to all of humanity. Now the baton has been passed to the Christian (Gen. 12).
  • We are to be rooted in humility, as our Lord was (Mark 10:45). This means mutual acceptance of others, even those whose culture and beliefs are different. Yet, it is amazing how we Christians exclude one another over trivial items, causing many church splits and schisms! By this, we have created a poor reputation in the world. We are often the butt of jokes that we have well earned.
  • Know this wonderful fact: God accepted you. You, in turn, must accept others! At the same time, we are to beware, as a wild animal will tear at another animal's weakness and frailty. We have to ask ourselves, do we do the same with others, and still seek to praise the Lord?
  • Christ bears our stupidities, and has patience with us when we are totally undeserving! We are to seek the good in others, as our Lord did, and be a blessing to others. We are not to seek self-gratification at the expense of others.

We have to realize that it is as impossible to be a Christian hypocrite as it is to be half pregnant. Either you are or you are not. The fruit will show your true colors. Jesus modeled and preached this. In doing so, He fulfilled prophecy. The primary goal of our Lord has always been to sanctify all (all people groups, tribes, nations, etc.) people from sin (Rev. 7:9). God did not save us to be self-centered; He saved us to be His ambassadors wherever we are and whenever we go! Paul used the Scriptures to prove this point. Keep in mind that the people of Babel sought their own strength (Gen 11). God wants us to seek Him Who is the greater strength and purpose!

Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful--Christian community is the final apologetic. Francis Schaeffer

Hope is the effect of obedience and trust in our Lord (Heb. 6:18). If you have no hope, then you have no vision or purpose, and no trust in the One who loves.

It all comes down to the decision of whether we will make our faith real and impacting, relinquishing our pride to allow us to learn, grow, and teach others, or we will plant our rears in the pew, thus making our only impact our butt prints in that pew! Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and passed on to the people around us!

Questions:

1. What is the definition of a disciple to you?

2. Why would a church decide not to have an effective Discipleship program?

3. What stops pastors and church leaders from taking Discipleship seriously?

4. According to Christ, what is more important than Discipleship as a call for the church?

5. Have you known Christians who flaunt themselves or are condescending to new Christians? Have you ever done this? How do you feel about this? What would Jesus think?

6. Christianity does not end at repentance and conversion. It begins there! How has this been so in you? If not, what is in the way?

7. Why would and should more experienced and mature Christians walk alongside new and less mature Christians?

8. What are your thoughts about our discussion of pride and arrogance? Have you been challenged, or do you feel we are barking up the wrong tree in our emphases?

9. Why does a Christian have the obligation-the imperative command-to disciple others in growth with time, love, and patience?

10. What would be some excuses not to do it? How would Christ receive these excuses?

11. In what ways do Christians present their own version(s) of lordship, to the exclusion of Christ (How do we see Jesus-as lord, or Lord)?

12. Why would dedication to unity rather than to strife and envy benefit your church?

13. How could you present an argument to your leadership that discipleship is paramount for the church?

14. What would be their motivation for doing so and how would Christ receive that?

15. Why is envy one of the most destructive forces on earth? How can it bring down leaders as well as ministries?

16. Christ's focus was pleasing God and helping others. What is yours?

17. Since God was able to deny Himself, can your pride be bigger than Him? If so, what do you need to do to become humble?

18. How does it make you feel that our Lord suffered for the benefit of you and others to the exclusion of Himself? Does this give you hope and encouragement? What about motivation?

19. What are the patterns that you and your church assume in serving others?

20. The Scriptures were written for you, for your benefit, for your learning, and for your growth, all by divine inspiration. How does this, or how can this motivate you to get in the Word daily?

21. Do you acknowledge God's Word the way you do money? Do you trust others to handle your money, but not to disciple your soul?

22. Why can't you glorify God in the midst of envy and strife or in anger and bitterness?

23. Are you and your church known for your negatives and/or positives? If so, what will you accomplish, or what will be your focus?

24. How can you and your church realize a depth of gratitude for what Christ has done so you can see the lost as opportunities and recognize the call to reach them?

25. If God accepted you, why should you not, in turn, accept others?

26. A wild animal will tear at another animal's weakness and frailties. Can you or your church do the same to others and still praise the Lord?

27. Christ bears our stupidities. What are those for you and your church? What do you think it means that Christ bears our stupidities?

28. How do you feel knowing that Christ has love, patience, and grace with us even though we are totally undeserving?

29. What have you or your church done in the past six months to promote or model peace and unity?

30. How can your church function collectively, with all of its individual personalities, in unified vision and purpose to glorify God?

31. Why would having no hope cause you and your church to have no vision and purpose for Discipleship, or not to trust the One who loves?

32. How can you embrace what discipleship means, and apply it in the time you have left?

33. Jesus ended His time on earth with an imperative command for individuals as well as for the Church to make more disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). Consequently, what has been your church's response to this? (Consider there is nothing we do as a church that could be more important that this! It is even more important than evangelism, which is our responsibility; but the only imperative command we are given by Christ is to do discipleship!)

34. How does it make you feel that few of us ministers will undertake discipleship for ourselves or train others because of pride, lack of time, or misplaced priorities?

35. How does the fact that most churches do not do discipleship affect the Kingdom of God and our call to the Great Commission?

36. What can you either do or remove so that you can embrace discipleship with vigor and faith so that nothing can come before Him?

37. How can you find the balance and build the time to be and make Disciples? Prayer and having a good person to disciple you will allow it to happen! Can you see what you need to give up and what you need to keep in order to become His committed child?

38. What have you or your church done in the past six months to promote or model Discipleship? What should you be doing with Discipleship?

39. What is the decision you will commit to about Discipleship for yourself?

40. What is the decision you will commit to about Discipleship for your church? How will you do it? What is the plan? Start date? Who will do this? How will you communicate this to the rest of the church? Do not forget prayer!

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. …Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

God saved us, not to be self-centered, but to be His ambassadors wherever we are and whenever we can!
 

© 1998, 2007 R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word www.discipleshiptools.org ; www.intothyword.org

 
 
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