The following is a chapter in progress from a book in progress being written by J.N.Wheels
The Necessity of Discipleship
Every minister of Christ is a servant, and a pastor or elder (same thing) is a willing and submitted pastor under the authority of a pastor with vision that is further reaching than his own. That pastor is Jesus. I cannot stress this enough – Jesus has the vision for His Bride (the Church) and it is found in Scripture. Every vision, plan and purpose should be brought into comparison, filtered, thought and re-thought through the lens of the Book of God, The Bible. We are fulfilling His vision for the world around us. As long as we realize this than we can serve together for God’s glory. Man does not have a worthwhile vision apart from the work and direction from God through His Word alone. There is no vision except for the mission of God given to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Each one of us has been placed in the “body” to help fulfill the vision of Christ.
And what is that vision?
Luke 2:49, 4:43, 24:46-49
We are all fulfilling the great commission of God to reach the lost world that we all live in, and in doing so, we are being conformed into the image of Christ. God placed His Son on the cross with the purpose to save. His justice, anger, and wrath were finally settled upon the body and soul of the one and only perfect man – Jesus Christ. God’s mission is to be known and glorified by saving men and women through the message and power of the good news of Gods Son, that is through the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel. God’s mission is our mission. And let it be said, there is no mission without compassion. His work is not a job but a personal compassionate mission.
How is God accomplishing this mission?
Through the proclaiming of the “Good News” about Jesus Christ, people are believing, repenting, and being saved. God is saving people as His Spirit draws people to Himself. How He desires to save is through other saved people sharing their true to Gods Word experience about their own salvation and Gods goodness. We preach, people hear, God saves. Is that a recipe? No, it is simply Gods direction for us as believers. The important thing to remember is that Salvation is the work of God, not man or mans techniques, oratory skills…etc God is Savior and salvation belongs to Him. Praise our Lord, that He saves! Now what?
Ok, now we are saved. What for?
In short, For Gods good pleasure. Im still not quite sure why He saw fit to save undeserving sinners and I feel more and more undeserving as the days pass, but for some unknown purpose, He has seen fit in His incredible Love and grace to Rescue us by His own blood, though He did not have to. And in rescuing us, He is also committing to invest in us, making us His disciples – His followers and students. He is making us like His Son. Likeness to Christ is the goal of true discipleship.
Discipleship was the focus and mission of Jesus. He spent His public ministry years surrounding himself specifically with twelve men. These men were His investment here on earth that would affect every generation to come, until Christ returns in the flesh once again. Jesus taught them with His Words and with His life. Not one without the other. We could consider them His apprentices. They shared in His every day life and as a result, they knew Him, His ways, and in knowing Jesus, they were knowing God! As the redeemed of the Lord, we have also become a part of this tight-knit group of disciples. He has invited us into His life, to share in His love and to learn His ways – Gods heart.
This is discipleship. They hung around Jesus, and as a result, they knew God better. They were experiencing their God by experiencing the life and ways of Jesus. Discipleship and disciple-making is the call to the saved.
Are we willing to become disciples?
Disciples are hard core. They left their families and lively-hoods to become more like their savior. They walked away from everything that they once called their “lives” in order to make Jesus their life. Comfort and ease were forsaken in order to gain heaven and relationship to Jesus. Worldly treasures had to be forsaken in order to become a disciple of Jesus. Nothing could be nearer to the heart of a disciple than Jesus. Jesus Himself became the treasure of those who followed Him. If you were not willing to give up everything to follow Jesus, then you were not a follower of Jesus. It was heaven-bound with Jesus or hell-bound with yourself and your earthly treasures. Even family needed to be considered rubbish compared to knowing Christ. Disciples were not “fooling-around.” They wanted and needed Jesus. If it was death for Jesus, then to the grave they went. For disciples, Church was living with and for Jesus, not in and out of a building on Sunday morning. Being a Christian was not owning a bible, but living the Bible, becoming a living letter for the whole world to read. Christ following was not a fish or a bumper-sticker on your fender but His name engraved upon your heart.
Christians, we have a problem.
If you read the Bible and take Gods words serious, than it is not hard to recognize that God is calling us all to a serious and deeply personal commitment. A commitment to Him and His ways and a commitment to one another. But if we are honest with ourselves first and then honest about what we see as we take a quick glance at the “church” around us, we must conclude that we have some problems.
Too many of us “Western” Christians live as though God owes us our salvation. So, now that we have received our salvation (or are deceived in thinking we have it), we, much like retirement, now deserve to chill-out, relax, and take up space in the “church” and the universe, do much of nothing, eat, sleep and then repeat, and all to the glory of ourselves. This is self-idolatry.
Lazy “Christians” become idolaters, idolizing themselves, their routines, their lifestyles, their comfort, their commitment (or lack there of) and so on. They can conveniently come and go at the risk of nothing. Self-preservation and zero risks become the norm of the majority “christian” in America.
Most men, especially, do nothing, while very few do most everything. This has been my experience and I would challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. The laborers are few, says Jesus. We have to pray for men and women who are willing to sweat for the sake of Gospel-furthering discipleship. Those few who are willing to disciple must pray hard and work effectively, living biblically towards the goal of being catalysts in their churches in an effort to make disciples who will go on to be disciple-makers.
I think there are “problem-children” in our churches…
I think we need to be more bold and less apologetic in our discipleship when it comes to completing and passing on this vision. We need to clearly explain to the men and women that are receiving from Christ, the local church, and from their teachers and leaders that they are being invested in for the purpose of making further disciples and progress in spreading what they are now taking in – the Gospel!
We cannot continue to tell people that they may come as they are and stay as they were. If you come to Jesus, He brings a sword, causing division between the life we are living and the sacrificial life He requires us to accept. He makes a line in the sand – For Me or against Me. My way or the hell-way. These are not harsh terms, these are Gods terms. You cannot continue to serve yourself and follow God. As leaders we must preach and teach Christ’s Gospel, lovingly requiring people to align themselves with the Words of Christ. Christianity is not for the consumer. What im saying is this, if people under our oversight do not understand that selfish unbiblical living is sin and not christianity, than we have failed the Gospel message and we are not leading them heaven-word. The old must go.
Unfortunately, our “its-ok-to-be-obese” culture is also creating “its-ok-to-be-obese-Christians” who are always learning, but never making use of the knowledge they have obtained. You could simply call these Christians, “fat-Christians.” They eat at the table, but never share their food. No-one is getting invited to dine with them. Bible study after bible study yet no results as far as impacting the world around them. Fat-Christians will not spread the Gospel because they are lazy and selfish and might not be Christians at all. As leaders, we need to make a steady and bold effort in prayer and action to reach and envision these unfortunate and delusional church goers. Christ died for them, yet they have not understood fully what this personally means for their lives and the lives of others. Unless they are moved by the Spirit to wake-up, they may never enter heaven to be with Christ at all. We need a movement of Christians and especially Christ-loving leaders who will intercede in prayer for their local churches and for themselves that they and their entire congregation would realize and answer the call of Christ upon our lives to be and make disciples. Jesus wants us to move when He gives direction: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15,16) “Go and make disciples… teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” (Matthew 28:19,20) “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost… You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” (Luke 14:26-33) I hope you and I don’t just skip over The Words of God found here. I am sure of this one thing: Our God says what He means, and He means what He says. “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (verse 35) You and I need to frequently examine and re-examine our lives in light of scripture.
Questions Worth Asking Ourselves:
Do our lives look more and more like the life that Christ requires of us?
Are we living lives that look scripturally heaven-bound? Or hell-bound?
Are we disciples? And are we disciple-makers?
This may be sobering, but I would rather be sober, living in reality, than delusional and on my way toward a Christ-less eternity.
Can’t you see the need for living and fulfilling and spreading the mission of God as active disciples of Jesus?
So what might this life-style look like?
First let me simply say this: Your life will look sacrificial. Christ sacrificed His life in order to save your life. Now we are required to repent of selfish living and to live sacrificially – giving our entire will over to His will. Christ died to save. Repentance is our response in realizing His saving grace toward us. We forsake who we have been (selfish sinners) and we live now for Him by Grace. Jesus requires that we leave the old selfish nature and follow Him in making Him our new nature. If we do not submit to this plan than we are not disciples of Jesus. Disciples and Disciple-makers are self-less and giving like Jesus.
Your life will be relational and missional like the life of Jesus. Jesus was surrounded by people, and some of those people were closer to Him and more frequently with Him in close relationship than others. In order for us to fulfill our mission with Christ we must be on mission in our homes, churches, and workplaces with an emphasis on building relationships towards a prayerful eternal investment. Simply put, we want people to be saved! We are to live out the Gospel with and in front of the world and church, drawing men and women to our Master, Savior and Friend, Jesus. Im not saying that you need to be “preachy” every time you spend time with non-believers but I am saying that we must hang out with non-believers with the intention of genuinely getting to know them, showing interest and true care for them and their personal lives, all with the purpose to introduce them to Jesus. I might be given the opportunity to share the Gospel with them or I might invite them to hang out with myself and some Christian friends where one of my friends share the Gospel with them. Or I might invite them to church with me where someone else lovingly shares Jesus with them. That is why we need to be involved in non-believing relationships and genuine Christian fellowship. Both relationships are important. This way, the body is most effective in living for Jesus and using the individual gifts that God has given each one of us to do great-commission work and glorify God.
In simplicity, your call to serve Him in your local community will help fulfill three things.
1.Win people to Christ by living-out, preaching and or reaching the lost with the clear biblical message of the Gospel. We are to reach the world around us. That world is your immediate context (Home, work, family, friends, neighbors…etc). We do this through relationship building. Jesus was relational. He showed up where people were and lived for God, lighting up the world around Him. He lived in community with those around Him, loving and living for the glory of God. As people watch, experience and join in on your life, they won’t be able to help experiencing the life of Jesus in you. Go win the world!
2.Disciple the saved in Jesus so that they grow up to be healthy and mature Christians who are contagiously enjoying their Gods salvation and fellowship with one another. The ultimate goal in Discipleship is not that Christians share their faith but that they know their savior and who it is they are sharing, becoming Christ-like and Christ-minded, glorifying their God. If we are successful in this than we wont have to twist arms to get the church to speak publicly the name of Jesus. Evangelism will simply be the fruit of becoming like Jesus. If you are being an example of this, those around you who you share your life with (discipleship), won’t be able to resist catching this vision. It should be as natural as breathing and unstoppable because it is who we are. Our identity is truly found in Jesus. We are saved and cannot be anything else. Our Goal as servants in the church is to train others to know that “to live is Christ.”
3.Send others out into the world to do the same. We are all on mission with Jesus wherever he has placed us. We want to be used to help others catch this vision and send them on Gods mission wherever Jesus calls or places them in this world.
Questions worth pondering:
What might Gods mission look like in your fellowship?
Are you a disciple?
What Does a Disciple look like? Act like?
Are you willing to make disciples?
How can you make disciples graciously and lovingly?