The description of our topic
Discipleship is the means by which Jesus changed the world. And making disciples is the same means His church changes the world. So if making disciples IS the great commission of the church, then we need to reform our most urgent mission in light of our lost world. In this session, we will discover and discuss what a disciple is and is not.
Outline of this Session
- Open discussion about your ideas of what a disciple is. Who makes disciples (of Christ)? How do you do it?
- The WHY…our purpose leads to our mission. I will define what a disciple is and is not. The Great Commission with the wrong emphasis. What went wrong? How do we change it?
- Open Discussion: Questions, Strategy, and Encouragement.
- What is a disciple?
- My Argument—I want to prove that we should see discipleship on both sides of conversion. In making disciples, it is essential that they learn what the gospel is and its demands. Therefore, a disciple can be a learner about Jesus before he becomes a disciple of Jesus.
- Who makes disciples?
- How do you do it?
- The WHY…our purpose leads to our mission
We must begin on the foundation of why God created man. What is our purpose in
life? Or in the words of the old catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” the
catechism answered it this way, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy
- Mark 12:30 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Mission: Not everyone in the world is glorifying God and they should be. God deserves the praise of His creation. That means we have a mission to take Jesus to the world. They need to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. They need to know how to be forgiven of their sins and a right relationship with the Lord.
- Purpose: We must begin on the foundation of why God created man. What is our purpose in life? Or in the words of the old catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” the catechism answered it this way, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Purpose is connected to the mission. Loving God cannot be disconnected from
loving your neighbor.
- Mark 12:31 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
- John 13:34-35 34 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. 35 By
this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
- The greatest love you can show those who walk in darkness is the light of Jesus. There is no greater news than the gospel.
- God is using His people to transfer people from the kingdoms of this world to His Kingdom. Discipleship is the mission to do that.
- Define what a disciple is and is not
The problem is we usually define disciple too narrowly. The most basic definition of a disciple is learner. A disciple is a learner. That means everyone is a disciple. You are a learner. Everyone is. There were disciples of John the Baptist and disciples of the Pharisees. There are disciples of Buddha and Mohamad. And not just religious disciples. There are disciples/learners of secular society. They seek to learn to live like the world. Most people think that you must be a believer before you can be a disciple. I don’t think that way. And I think it is unhelpful to think that way.
Why do I think this way? The mission of the church is more than saying Admit, Believe, and Confess. And disciple-making with much like parenting.
- Admit what? Why?
- Believe in who?
- Confess what?
This is better than some “gospel” presentations I have heard. But there’s so much to learn. The process is longer than you might think. I’ve been teaching the Bible to my son for eleven years. He has been a learner his entire life. But two weeks ago, he was born again. He knew tons about Jesus long before he knew Jesus. I waited for the Holy Spirit to open his ears to hear the gospel. The reality that he himself would receive God’s wrath if he did not repent and trust in Christ himself. My son has been a learner of Jesus for a long time. He is still a learner of Jesus. We never graduate from being a disciple on this sod.
I’ve heard people say something like this at an evangelistic event, “Who wants to go to heaven?” Well, that’s a no-brainer. Everybody wants to go to heaven. But that’s not the gospel. You’ve got to get the gospel right before you can have a disciple of Jesus.
You can’t teach your kids how to live for Jesus over a weekend or a summer camp or youth rallies or VBS. It takes a lifetime. Discipleship/learnership begins before they become believers and it continues throughout all of life. Some will become a disciple of Jesus. Some will walk away. But make sure you have taught them the gospel.
You might be wondering if I have any Biblical basis for my understanding that you can be a disciple/learner before becoming a disciple of Jesus.
- Two examples. Let’s do the easy one first.
- Here is
an example of disciples who were learning about Jesus but there were things
they learned about him that they didn’t like and therefore stopped learning
about him and ceased following him.
- John 6:63-69 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 ¶ After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
- Here is an example of disciples who were learning about Jesus but there were things they learned about him that they didn’t like and therefore stopped learning about him and ceased following him.
Jesus had disciples that turned back and some that remained. Only those who remain with his to the end are true disciples of Christ.
- What about Judas? Where is his soul? Let me
finish quoting the above text.
- John 6:70-71 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
There are many who may give mental ascent to the facts of the bible but do not love them. The devil and his demons believe the bible. You must talk about believing in a way that clearly distinguishes that concept rightly. Words mean different things to people. Like love. We love God and we love pizza. Believing is treasuring…loving Jesus above all things.
If you are thinking of a disciple as a learner then you are teaching the gospel. Who is God…what is sin…what does it mean to believe…who is Jesus…what is the cross…why did he have to die…how does that pay for my sins…it seems to bible demands perfection to stand before God how can I be righteous.
You see…there are tons of things to teach and explain.
The Great Commission with the wrong emphasis. Let me read it. Matthew 28:19-20 19 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.”
Bear with me on some grammar issues. We have place the emphasis on go instead of what is most important. The grounds for my statement comes from the grammar of this verse and it’s hard to see in the English.
Commands are usually the strong verbs that get our attention. The only command in this text is “make” disciples. “Go” is a supporting participle. We would normally translate a participle with an “ing” on the end. So the command is make disciples while there are three other verbs to describe how to make disciples.
Make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. The sense of “go” is “as you are going”. You can’t make disciples if you do not go. There’s a lot of going on mission for Jesus that has nothing to do with making disciples.
And you have not made a disciple of Jesus unless you have baptized them in the name (singular) of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (plural). And you have not made a disciple of Jesus if you have not been taught to observe ALL that Jesus commanded. Not recite. Not know. But observe. Do. Act.
Many people call my daughter “little Kimberly.” She talks like her, acts like her, and thinks like her. Do you know what the word Christian means? It means “little Christ.” Are you a Christian? Do you act like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and think like Jesus? There will be a lot of UNLEARNING, depending on when a person begins learning who Jesus is.
What went wrong? You see people come and go. They make a profession of faith then they leave and never come back. How you think about that person will determine how you respond. You should always take the view about yourself and your fellow church members…We will see. The only true faith is faith that endures to the end.
A number of years ago, while I was in seminary this came home to me. It is still typical to have evangelism conferences in associations. Whoever baptized the most hosted the event. A small congregation west of Fort Worth hosted it that year. They had baptized around 75 the best I can remember. Someone looked at their attendance board and noticed there were only 30 or so people coming to church. Someone asked, “Where are they?”
If you think, asking people if they want to go to heaven is the way to make disciples and if they never darken the door again and you think they are good to go then you are badly mistaken.
I was in rural West Virginia on a mission trip some years ago and the DOM came to visit our group. He was telling us about an evangelistic event they had held the previous weekend. And then I heard him say something that I still cannot believe he said, “We offered free TV’s to everyone who made a profession of faith.”
That’s what went wrong. People have been led in a prayer but were not led to Jesus. They don’t know who he is. I bear the scars of that very thing. I was led to believe that the sinner’s prayer would fix me. It didn’t. It’s hard to undo that. By God’s grace, he saved me.
How do we change this? Preach the whole gospel. Teach the whole Bible. Make disciples not merely converts. If you are seeking people to balance or expand your budget then you will do about anything to get people there and keep them. When the whole gospel is proclaimed a lot less people will be professing faith.
And when they profess faith in Jesus, make sure they understand they must die. The Old Man…the old Jason must die. That’s what baptism represents. You died and a new creation was born. When they profess faith in Christ, make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Jesus is Lord now not them. You have bowed the knee to King Jesus. Whatever he says goes. When they profess faith in Jesus, make sure you practice biblical church discipline so that when they begin to walk contrary to Jesus you can call them back. If they remain unrepentant, you treat them as a tax collector and sinner, remove them from membership, and then try to win them to Jesus with the gospel.
Questions, strategy and encouragement
Strategy—a church covenant is a great guide, catechisms, bible study to explore Christianity, being with Jesus is key. The place to do that is God’s Word. As you make disciples be sure to teach them to make disciples and multiple.
During seminary, an older, godly man met with me every Friday morning for two years. It was a place were I could ask questions that I was afraid to ask in class. I could even weep as I struggled to unlearn things and learn new things. Discipleship is messy. That’s why most people avoid it. growing is hard. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is hard. We have many starts and stops and starts again. The road is hard but the glory of becoming like Jesus brings glory to God.
Seek out relationships that will help you grow. Seek out relationships that you can help others grow (you will grow as you help them grow). Invest in people for the long haul. Wait for the Spirit to do the work of changing the heart as you fill their minds with the gospel.
And make sure you teach disciples how to make disciples and you will multiple rather than add. Don’t let the word of God stop with you. May it reproduce…bear fruit from you.
Encouragement– Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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.”
Why the purpose must be foundational? Because if you are not aware, just because you engage in making disciples does not mean they will become a disciple of Jesus. And if your joy is bond up in those who respond to the gospel then you will be continually disappointed. And if you do not love Jesus…worship Jesus…know Jesus…walk with Jesus, then you will not offer that which you do not love.