The Call to Discipleship
The Call to Discipleship
Be a Disciple – Make a Disciple
I traveled to California earlier this year, and on the flight there I had a middle seat. I don’t mind having a middle seat but I found myself constantly trying to look out the small window and see things from 30,000 feet. Unfortunately, the passenger who sat next to the window had the shade pulled down the entire time. It’s funny how I had such a strong desire and curiosity for the ground beneath us. I honestly wanted to see what it looked like, which is weird because I’m on the ground all the time, I know what it looks like. But there’s something unique about the earth from 30,000 feet. It gives us a perspective that we just can’t get while earthbound. There’s something beautiful about aerial views. Sure, we miss the intricate details. But we gain such massive perspective. As we start a new study on discipleship, our first goal is to take a trip up to 30,000 feet and get an aerial view on the matter. And that starts with working out some definitions.
What is a Disciple?
A disciple is someone who rests in the work Christ has done for them and is doing in them through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
As we look down through the clouds at the discipleship landscape below the first thing we should see is that a disciple is not someone who simply sets a new priority; a disciple finds a new identity. The Bible describes this new identity as being born again (John 3). A disciple of Jesus is someone who has first and foremost trusted in Christ alone for salvation. We must get this order correct. Discipleship does not lead to being Christian, being Christian enables us to be disciples. 1 Peter 2:9-10 paints this picture well.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Notice the first reality of discipleship is not primarily about what a disciple will do but who a disciple now is, there is an identity shift “you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” then comes what a disciple will do “that you may proclaim…” Verse 10 paints the identity shift even more clearly, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Peter then goes on in verses 11-12 and instructs us how we should then live before the world because of this identity shift, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” So, in our view from the clouds the first thing we see is that biblical discipleship flows from our new identity in Christ.
What is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the process of modeling Christ-likeness and multiplying Christ followers. We see the command to multiply Christ followers in Matthew 28:19 and the call to model Christ-likeness in Matthew 28:20.
"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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Discipleship is modeling (teaching) with the intent of multiplying. A disciple models Christ-likeness and multiplies Christ followers.
A disciple is one who learns; there’s no way around that. If you are being discipled you should be learning from someone, if you are engaged in discipleship you should be teaching someone. Here’s where we need to be careful though, because, from this standpoint discipleship can seem like strictly an intellectual pursuit. And often this is where we lose our way. When we reduce discipleship down to only a handoff of facts we miss the point of discipleship altogether. Here’s why: the ultimate goal of discipleship is not to impart information alone but rather, to teach and model right behavior. The end in mind is Christ-likeness. You have not done your job in discipleship when you’ve only imparted information, though that may be the start, you’ve done your job when that information leads to a changed life (James 1:22-25). This process involves more than just a data dump. That’s why, more often than not, true disciples aren’t made in classrooms they’re made in living rooms. It’s there where the things learned in the classrooms are actual put in to practice. Jesus modeled this type of discipleship. He taught His disciples often, and He modeled before them what He taught in real life. This form of teaching is highly effective.
Multiply Christ Followers
A disciple’s objective is not only their own Christ-likeness. Verse 19 instructs us to, “make disciples of all nations.” This means a true disciple multiplies. John Starke writes, “Disciples are not merely learners but fruit-bearing disciple-makers; they multiply themselves.” This year our desire, as a church, is to engage, develop, and deploy people with the Gospel message. We want to engage those around us with the Gospel and pray for their conversion. We want to develop those whom we’ve engaged in discipleship and cause their roots to go down deep. And we want to the deploy disciples on mission to do likewise.
Discipleship is costly. There’s no way around that. It will indeed cost us everything. Yes, everything. All the things that once had the right to our hearts first affection can’t stay there anymore. That place must be reserved for Jesus alone. Tim Keller writes, “If you intellectually assent, ‘Yes, I think Jesus is probably the Son of God; I think he probably died for our sins,’ but he is not the center of your life, then you may think you understand, but you really don’t. It’s not just a matter of commitment or lack of discipline, there’s spiritual deadness; you don’t really see it, understand it, get it. Wake yourself up!”