The Reason for Discipleship
We have a little dorm fridge in our dining area. We moved it there from my office at the house after we renovated. Sometimes we forget it is even there.
I remembered yesterday.
The night before, I had loaded the dishwasher and tried to turn it on. Our house is an old one. Sometimes a circuit breaker will turn off and the dishwasher and several power receptacles are on that circuit.
Turns out the little dorm fridge is on that circuit.
I discovered it yesterday when, in my socks, I stepped in a pool of water that came out of that dorm fridge. (I HATE that!) What a shock!
I mopped up the water with an old towel and tried to figure out what caused the water to flow there and then remembered that the power had gone off. I assumed that everything was okay since the power was back on. I wrongly ASSUMED that all the ice inside it had melted.
Last night, when I came home from my office, I told Laurie about it and she started looking into it. She showed me that the freezer portion of the dorm fridge, which had apparently been frozen solid, still had a LOT of ice in it that had not yet melted.
What should I do?
I decided to grab that chunk of ice and throw it off the porch into the side yard so it could melt there. This morning I noticed that there was still some ice on that side lawn.
As we go I will reveal why this story about a dorm fridge is at all pertinent.
When it was time for Jesus to begin His active ministry on the earth, the very first thing He did after being baptized and then spending time in the wilderness with His Father and the Holy Spirit was to begin to make disciples.
The word “disciples” is the Greek word “matheteuo” and it means “student” or “pupil”.
One of the very last things Jesus did before ascending back to Heaven was to give what some call The Great Commission. The word “commission” has to do with someone with authority passing the authority to accomplish something on to another person. This is why Jesus begins the Great Commission the way He does:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘ALL AUTHORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME in heaven and on earth.’” (Matthew 28:18 – caps are mine for emphasis) Then He says this:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus authorizes all Christians to do several things on His behalf, since it is He who is authorizing us.
Contrary to popular belief in the Church, the term “Go therefore” does NOT mean to “Find someplace on the earth other than where you are and go there.” The term literally means “as you are going”.
In other words, Jesus isn’t telling us in Matthew 28 to “go to the mission field” - or to satisfy the Great Commission by giving money to support people in the mission field - although these are wonderful things to do.
Right now I have friends in Albania who the Lord has sent there. In fact, the ministry we do in North Texas is similar in that the Lord sent us here to this very place to minister. That’s why God has people support our friends in Albania and our ministry here. We function as missionaries. We can find all through the book of Acts Biblical precedence for what they and we are living out in our mission fields.
However, in Matthew 28, Jesus is speaking of something else. He is describing a LIFESTYLE in which as we go we do three specific things: make disciples, baptize them, and teach them.
In my studies over the past few years I came to realize that, for the most part, I was not discipled for most of the 31 years of my Christian life. Dan, the man who led me to Jesus, baptized me and then spent a LOT of time with me in my early Christian walk and he discipled me. I’m not sure if either of us would have thought of what he did as “discipleship” at the time.
Things happened in our lives, I was transferred to another state for my job and that season passed. For the next nine years I attended a church building faithfully. I studied my Bible (actually wore it out), took notes during sermons, went to conferences and Bible studies, taught Bible studies, hosted meetings in our home, devoured audio teachings and read many, many books on Christian things.
I was being taught but there was no discipling being done in my life.
I’ve come to recognize that, in general, discipleship doesn’t at all exist in the Body of Christ now. We’ve become programmed to experience Christianity by living from event to event.
Even though many leaders correctly teach in those events that Christianity is a lifestyle, the earthly system of Christian spiritual events encourages people to not live a Christian lifestyle. Rather, we live from event to event….
All of us who understand the value in gathering with other Christians (whether it be in church buildings or homes or the workplace or in restaurants, etc.) WILL gather with others. Usually these Gatherings are regularly scheduled ones. We are ALL in danger of interacting with Jesus only during these events.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus just picked twelve disciples? Besides the fact that 12 is an important number to the Jews (it represents perfection and authority) Jesus was modelling something. He knew that the intimacy of a small group of people could accomplish a lot in the souls of those twelve people.
He knew that He would call the first people He spent time with “disciples” and He knew that three years later, when He issued the Great Commission, He would tell us to make “disciples.”
He was not modelling how to have scheduled spiritual events. The Jews already had that with their festivals, regularly scheduled sacrifices and weekly synagogue meetings.
He was modelling a lifestyle (“Go therefore”).
The lifestyle of building God’s Kingdom has to do with extending HIS influence into the souls of other people. HIS Kingdom has to do with order and HIS order displaces the disorder satan has worked so hard all our lives to put into our souls.
In this way, the Kingdom of God is built IN people.
As we watch Jesus operate in the Gospels, we can see Jesus addressing the disorder He could see in the souls of His disciples.
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ ‘But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’” (Matthew 16:21-23)
The words Jesus spoke to Peter sound so harsh, but Jesus had spent TIME with Peter. He knew what Peter could take and WHAT HE NEEDED. In Peter’s soul was a flaw: he was a people pleaser. That’s why Peter rebuked the King of Glory.
Think about that for a minute: Peter REBUKED Jesus.
Because Jesus had spent a lot of time in intimate settings with Peter, He could see that a flaw in Peter’s soul is what caused Peter to rebuke Him and Jesus knew Peter’s calling and destiny in Christ. He knew this flaw in his soul would quench Peter’s ability to work in his future authority as an apostle…so He addressed it the way Peter needed it to be addressed.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Jesus had spent time DISCIPLING His DISCIPLES. He KNEW them. Lots of time in small groups of people has a way of doing that.
He knew that in their souls were other flaws or strongholds. He knew they would be tempted to turn to self-preservation when it came time to deny themselves and take up their crosses. So, He addressed it. In a very simplistic way….our souls are like that little dorm fridge in our dining area. Aspects of our souls will be unknown to us just like I was unaware that ice was building up inside its freezer.
Most of us don’t even ever think about our souls. We know we have souls and that they are there but they fade into the background as we are busy living our lives. Truthfully, even though I place my boots in front of that dorm fridge every, single night – I never consider it.
It’s just there.
We live in an old house. That circuit breaker popped the other day because it was protecting us from something. Because that something was happening, it became evident to me that there had been a problem in our little dorm fridge all this time.
The truth is that satan has been building strongholds into ALL our souls since the day we were conceived in the wombs of our mothers. Eventually, those strongholds, which are the result of satan’s influence in us, will try to exert its influence on us.
We will experience something that will be as unpleasant as stepping in cold melting ice runoff in a nice, dry pair of socks – or worse. It might lead to a divorce or a lost job or a missed opportunity….or worse.
Maybe it will cause us to mismanage a situation God has entrusted to us.
Had I spent time practicing good stewardship, checking out the dorm fridge I would never had stepped in that water.
If we spend time submitting to someone GOD CHOOSES to watch over us and disciple us, perhaps some of our flaws will be revealed THROUGH that person and God can advance His Kingdom in us in this manner.
That, I believe, is why the Great Commission tells us to “make disciples” and not make “congregants” or “members”.
Making disciples is effort, time and soul intensive. Making disciples COSTS us something but it is all worth it! As we read the Gospels with an eye open to see what Jesus did with His disciples we see that discipleship means spending time together, reasoning together, eating meals together, and traveling with one another. It means being with the whole group, or in gatherings of a few, or one-on-one.
Making disciples means teaching one another, listening to one another, considering options, learning, receiving, and sharing our lives. It means everyone feels familiar enough with one another to ask what might seem like stupid questions. We lower the protective walls in our soul in discipleship because we come to love one another. This counteracts the normal human response of being wary and self-protective in larger groups and events.
As I said earlier, I was discipled early in my new life as a Christian by Dan, the man that led me to the Lord. After that year and a half or so I went NINE years without anyone really watching over my soul. There are two reasons for that:
I never asked anyone to disciple me.
I didn’t know that was supposed to be a part of the Christian experience having come to Jesus COMPLETELY ignorant about the Bible and Christianity. What was modeled to me was the current expectation that whatever happened in the various church services, conferences, “revivals” (look for that word or concept in the New Testament sometime – it is utterly absent from the Word), reading the Bible regularly, and special church events would be sufficient for personal growth in Christ. So, I never asked.
2. No one ever approached me to disciple me.
To the credit of almost everyone I met after Dan I don’t think any of them knew that REAL discipleship was expected by the Lord or being practiced anywhere in the Church. They had been saturated by the same earthly system I had experienced and true, Biblical discipleship just never seems to fall in any budget categories in congregations.
In other words, although the WORD “discipleship” sometimes is mentioned, the practice is virtually non-existent in the corporate Body of Christ.
I do not say this as an indictment. I say it in my grief.
I used an ice-filled dorm fridge freezer earlier as a metaphor of a human soul that goes unexamined and unmanaged. I’m convinced that due to the almost complete absence of true discipleship in the Church today, many strongholds remain in the souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ. These typically go unaddressed.
They remain unaddressed until something bad happens like a separation, a divorce, an outbreak of domestic violence, a fall into pornography and other kinds of sexual immorality, a nervous breakdown, relapse into alcoholism and drug abuse, suicide…… They remain unaddressed because most of us do not REALLY know our brothers and sisters. And, because we don’t know one another, we almost HAVE TO keep our strongholds hidden. Sometimes, the lack of intimate relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ keeps these things in our souls hidden even from ourselves.
Twenty years ago, the Lord assigned a man to