Chapter 8. Disciples
per — Capturing God’s Heart Volume #40
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
The church is where disciples are being made.
Where disciples are being made there is the church. * as quoted from Victor Choudhrie in ‘Teach Them to Obey’
The Biblical definition of church has always been about making disciples. It is easy to gather and even easier to build a building than to build disciples. Somehow, we have mistaken church to be about buildings and programs. Yet the church is the people, the body of Christ.
Consider what we are told about the early church,
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 ESV
The early church was formed of simple and small communities of people where instruction and understanding naturally flowed in the context of fellowship, of eating together, and in prayer. There were no large gatherings, and there were no ‘church’ buildings, gatherings, or agendas, as we know it today.
Simply put, church is where the gospel and manner of Jesus Christ is passed on to others and where we are to take on identification with Christ and become like him.
Yet we have, in our formalization of the gospel in our church attendance and programs, in fact watered down the gospel. We easily miss that Jesus offers to any who would be his disciple, a two part invitation, the first, ‘come to me’, the second, ‘learn to die to yourself’.
KEY: Disciples are those who have 1) turned toward Christ in the fullness of their heart, and 2) who are learning to die to self.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:27 ESV
This is a hard message. It does not support much of our modern preaching where we are told that if we come to God he will make us big, or wealthy, or happy. Instead, Jesus basically says, ‘come and die with me’.
It is important that we understand this. The gospel is an invitation to die to our selfishness, our own comfort, our need to be recognized, our arrogance and pride, our own best thinking and understanding, our prejudices, our self-pity, and more.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
It is as we come into contact with the true Lord Jesus Christ that we will become more gentle, we will honour all people, and we will be faithful to walk alongside others through the messiness of life rather than demanding some sort of christian facade.
Our hatreds, our impatience, our contempt, our disdain, our bitterness, our arrogance, our pride, our selfishness, our need for vengeance, and more, will all be put at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we will become new creatures in Him. The persons we once were, we will no longer be. And we will grow in steadfastness and faithfulness, regardless of the circumstance or difficulties of our life.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV
This is the promise of our Lord to us. To grow us up in Him, to strengthen us through the trials, and to change our hearts and minds and lives from the inside out.
So, the first mark of a disciple is someone who has turned to Jesus and is in process of dying to self. The second mark of a disciple is the ability to both give and receive, to enter into true fellowship with the Lord and each other. Consider this,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 ESV
And we may ask, what is the will of our Father in heaven? It is this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
Here Jesus is giving a new commandment. Now, just prior to these verses Jesus had this conversation with Peter,
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” John 13:3-9 ESV
Jesus was taking the role of a servant and performing the lowest act possible, that of washing the dirty and dusty feet of his disciples. He was modelling to them the attitude that they were to take with others. He took on the job no one wanted.
But Peter could not, at first, receive from the Lord. His pride was too great to enter into the vulnerability of having Jesus serve him and minister to him. And Jesus, as we see in verse 8, asserts that without the washing of the Lord we have no part in him.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is where we are first washed, but then this ‘washing of the Lord’ continues within our faith communities as acts of service to one another, primarily coupled with the ability to receive acts of service from others.
Now some will more easily receive, and these ones must learn to serve. Others more easily serve, and these ones must learn to receive. There is no division on this. In the Kingdom of God there are not some who serve and some who receive. We are all to serve and we are all to receive.
The early church was marked by this mutual uplifting and teaching of each other. And where this radical, God-centered model of church is today, there is thriving presence of the Lord with much growth and delight in Him.
This manner, this attitude of fellowship, of giving and receiving, is what marks a disciple:
1. A disciple does not count him or herself better than others.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 ESV
2. A disciple serves the people around him or her.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV
3. A disciple becomes vulnerable and receives from others.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 ESV
4. A disciple knows his or her brokenness and welcomes the healing touch of the Lord through others.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:3-5 ESV
5. Disciples allow no distinctions amongst themselves.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28 ESV
Jesus brought a model of corporate service to each other. He calls us to himself, and he then calls us to die to ourselves. Here, in humility and love we have the ingredients of a revolution, something so vastly different from our natural human natures that Jesus said these are the marks by which others will come to know God.
Model the Lord Jesus Christ in all you do. Be blessed as you pass Him on.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 ESV
Let us review. The church is where disciples are being made and where disciples are being made, there we have church. Church is the body of believers, it is not a building.
The difficulty with church buildings is that they take our focus away from our primary work in the Lord — to make disciples. There is so much to think about and to take care of when we have a physical building to create and then sustain. Perhaps this is why in Luke 10 that Jesus taught his disciples to go out and preach the good news, but to bring no money bags, travellers bag, or even a pair of sandals.
These are pretty radical instructions. And yet, when we see the amount of focus that is required to maintain a church building we can see the wisdom in Christ’s instructions. I wonder if he is telling us to go as simply as possible, and to in fact, go with nothing in the way of earthly property or concerns.
The Kingdom of God is an upside down, inside out, kind of thing. The Kingdom of God does not work according to our best understanding of how the world works. In fact, Jesus continually challenged us to think in completely revolutionary ways.
Bottom line, we are to be making disciples while simultaneously shunning anything that would take our focus off of this goal. How do we do this?
We begin by eliminating all that is distracting us from making disciples. What might be distracting you and your church (the people you fellowship with) from making disciples?
1. Take some time in silence with the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the things that are distracting you from making disciples. Keep in mind that these might be very good activities, and yet, in the end, if they hinder you from the primary work they must go. (18)
2. As you hear from the Holy Spirit, do not push away the revelation of the Lord. Keep in mind that we are often very attached to the ‘good’ things that we do. Yet, be willing to wrestle through what God is telling you, and to eliminate any things that are taking your focus from making disciples.
3. Next, and over the course of a few weeks, take one bold action step that shows you are intent on obeying this conviction of the Lord. Be intentional. Do not be rash or in haste. But do respond to the Lord and take action to make the changes God is impressing upon you.
4. Then, become a disciple yourself. Look back over what a disciple knows, and see if you know these things. Are you a disciple of Jesus? As you consider this question, again, ask the Lord to lead your thinking and to bring clarity to your understanding.
To make lasting changes it is important to implement one new change at a time. Bit by bit is how we are transformed in our inner person and in how we are leading. Application is about taking one new thought and allowing it to shift what we are doing.
So, as you consider these thoughts, make notes, consider what needs to be changed, and then implement one thing at a time. Then, after a bit of time implement another change. In this way, you will be able to look back and see the action steps that you took and the results.
To finish off this lesson, I share with you a prophecy from Pastor Walter in Kenya that he passed on to me in the fall of 2013. It is a strong warning and admonition from the Lord and relays the heart of our Lord. Take time to read it and then read it again.
Allow its message to shift your thinking and the way you are leading within the body of Christ.
“This is a new time. A new time on the face of the earth. A new time in My Kingdom on earth. Listen to Me, Please Listen to Me. You must listen to My voice. Do not train the sheep to follow you. Do not train the sheep to listen to your voice. Equip them to be sent forth, prepare them for the journey. You must not hold back. Do not hold yourself in reserve, this is not about you.
It is not about your kingdom, your ministry, your efforts, or your work. For I am doing a new thing. It is like the old, it is like the New Testament. The pastor did not do the work of the flock. The pastor encouraged My body, tended My body, prepared it for the work of My kingdom. He who would be greatest as a pastor in My flock must be the least. You must be servant of all, just as I have been, just as I still am.
I am protecting and feeding the flock. Recognize that these [in your church] will go out and do the work – greater works than I am doing. [It is Jesus’ ministry, He is doing this to blossom and come forth. We need the attitude of John the Baptist – He must increase and we must decrease.]
I am the God of the living, I am not a God of the dead nor am I dead. All who come to Me will live and I will give them eternal life that they will live forever in the kingdom that I am establishing. My Kingdom will soon be evident in the earth and you will see those who are propelled by the life of God. You will see holiness and purity emerge in the people who have allowed the refining fire to purify their hearts and minds. I am a refining fire and I refine all who would come to Me and say, here I am, refine me.”
Summary – disciples
Church is where disciples are being made and where disciples are being there is church.
We are called to make disciples. Matthew 28:
A disciple does not count him or herself better than others. Philippians 2:3
A disciple serves the people around him or her. Galatians 5:13
A disciple becomes vulnerable and receives from others. Matthew 11:28
A disciple knows his or her brokenness and welcomes the healing touch of the Lord through others.
Disciples allow no distinctions amongst themselves. Galatians 3:27-28
We must ensure that we are Disciples ourselves. Matthew 27:21-23
18. As you enter into listening prayer, set the space and time with this prayer: “I come before you God in the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. I desire your revelation God. I declare that all lying, deceiving, and confusing spirits must be silent in the name and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. I invite you God, to speak to me.”