I ask what God wants me to do for the church.
As promised in last month’s article, I want to continue with the theme of discipleship. The key feature of the process of being a disciple of Jesus is that the disciple (you and me) is becoming like Jesus. And that process is not complete this side of heaven. Romans says we are being conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29). Colossians says that we are being made complete in Christ (Col. 1:28). Peter indicates that we are to be growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2Pet. 3:18). John, that when we see Him, we will be as He is, but we are not there yet (1Jn. 3:2). We are in the throes of an amazing process that is moving us toward Christlikeness. In Second Corinthians, Paul describes it this way,
But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18 NAS20
How do we, as a church, make that happen? I have gone through some first-rate discipleship programs, but I have observed over the years that it’s not the quality of the program that determines success. What determines whether a person will mature, becoming more and more like Jesus in this growth process rests entirely with the person who wants to be a disciple of Jesus.
Remember last month I said that discipleship is risky business? Let me elaborate. To embark on that process of becoming like Jesus, I must let go of myself. I exchange my identity, my mind, my heart, my will for the person of Christ. Up to this point, I have been making my own decisions, now I submit all of them to the will of God. Somebody else is making the decisions for my life and that “somebody” is Jesus! What I risk is that Jesus might lead me to go places and do things that I don’t want to or that I don’t understand. But that is precisely the risk of becoming a disciple. Jesus said it this way,
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, this is the one who will save it. For what good does it do a person if he gains the whole world, but loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26 NASB 2020)
Deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. This takes me out of the realm of being a spectator of God’s work to being a full-on participant. Or to slightly modify the words of John F. Kennedy, I do not ask what the church can do for me, I ask what God wants me to do for the church.
Now, the truth is that when I make that commitment, I gain so much more than I give up! But what we gain is the subject of another article. In fact, what we gain in this discipleship process is pretty much the subject of every sermon and Bible study we do here at the church. Suffice it to say, to become a follower (disciple) of Jesus, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
We need to have discipleship programs that are user friendly and transferrable. And we already do have a couple of them. What we’re looking for are people who want to be like Jesus and are willing to commit their lives to be His disciple no matter what the cost. Next month I want to look more closely at the work of the disciple-maker.
In Christ our living hope,
Discipleship is risky business: deny yourself, take up your cross, lose your life to gain it, leave (hate, Lk. 14:26) father & mother etc. Yet this is precisely the mission given to the universal church, and to our church by the Lord Jesus! Discipleship begins with some “easy” stuff: open the door, believe in and receive Jesus, take the water of life without cost, saved by the grace gift of God not of works. But once a person is born-again, she/he will never be the same. So, yes, discipleship is risky business, but in this case the statement is true, no risk, no reward.
Ideal discipleship takes place in the context of a loving fellowship of Believers with learners committed to learning and teachers committed to teaching. For the learners, they need to be teachable and obedient. For the teachers, they also need to be teachable, have a servant’s heart, and remain obedient. And when learning-teaching is taking place, there will be fruit bearing, both character fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) and ministry fruit (Jn. 15:16).
Discipleship training happens in both structured and unstructured environments. The structured environment includes accountability relationships between the teacher and learner. These accountability relationships seem to work best one-on-one or in a small group. The unstructured environment involves less direct accountability among the people to each other, but more accountability between the individual and the Lord. These unstructured events include our Sunday and Thursday worship services, the weekly Bible studies, and virtually every time “two or more” are gathered in Jesus’ name.
My appeal in this article is to get us thinking about discipleship and where each of us is in our discipleship process. Since our ultimate goal is to become like Jesus (1Jn. 3:2), then our primary identity here and now is to be a growing disciple of Jesus. Some have stopped with the easy stuff and never taken the next step. Some have taken that next step of life dedication but have become complacent in their walk with God and witness for Jesus. And some have truly embraced the call to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Next month I want to “dive a little deeper” and “stay down a little longer” on this process of being and making disciples. For now, I urge you to make it your goal today to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. Take that next step in this work of becoming complete in Christ. And may God bless you richly as you follow our risen Lord!
In Christ our living hope,