Thursday, May 3, 2012

What is Discipleship? - Who is to disciple? (Part 3)

          Over the last few months as I have been thinking about the call by Christ to believers to follow after Him and to make disciples a nagging questions has kept coming up in my mind. Who should disciple others?

Often times as I have encouraged others to take on the mantle of discipleship I have heard the objection, "I am not spiritually mature enough to disciple someone else." While it may be true, you may have some work to do on spiritual maturity, does this give you a free pass on discipling someone else? Another common objection goes something like this, "I am not called to disciple other believers, that is for people who are outgoing and are gifted in that area." While it may be true, you don't have the interpersonal skills to start up a friendship from scratch and begin discipling another person, but does God list "outgoing person" as one of the qualities to look for in a person who disciples others? A final objection that I would like to address is the one that goes like this, "I would love to disciple someone but I have no clue where to start." The good news is that you don't have to develop some huge program, keep reading and hopefully you will see what I mean.

It is my contention that, all believers are called to disciple other believers; but not all are ready. I know that this is a bold statement, but my hope is to challenge you to evaluate who you can share your life with with the purpose of growing in Christlikeness.

All Believers are Called

In the past we have looked at Matthew 28 and asked who is to be a disciple? Now, I would like to take a second look at that passage of scripture and ask the question “Who is to disciple others?” 

Matt. 28:18–20 says, 'And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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."' (ESV used for all quotes)

At this point in His ministry Christ is giving his final charge to his disciples saying this is how you are to spread the good news of the gospel. It is interesting that what we would usually see as commands in this saying of Christ are really verbal nouns. The only imperative in this passage is Make Disciples. Does that strike you as odd? The call is not necessarily to Go, or to Baptize, or even to Teach/Equip but to make disciples. In his book The complete book of discipleship Bill Hull said this, “A commitment to be and make disciples must be the central act of ever disciple and every church.”[1]

         As followers of Christ we now are called to this very same work, make disciples. There are many different ways to do so including, encouraging others to sit under the preached word and partake of the sacraments or reading the Bible or a good book with someone else. There are many contexts: at home with your spouse or children, with a good friend or with someone you want to know better. But, the call is clear to the church Make Disciples by being people who go and evangelize, baptize, and teach people all that Christ has commanded.
         With this in mind, we need to now turn to the question of readiness. All are called, but not all are ready.
Not all are ready

            If all people are called to make disciples does this mean that all people, from the newest of Christians to the oldest saints in the faith are prepared and posses the characteristics of a person to follow? Well, no. So what are the qualities of someone who ought to disciple others?

         I hesitate in writing about qualifications or qualities that a person needs to posses to do something in the church that the Bible does not explicitly lay out. The reason for this is that there is no special class of Christian (i.e. those who are holy) versus the rest of us (i.e. those who struggle with sin). The gospel levels the play ground, it says that we are all in need of salvation from someone outside of us. There is no distinction, no super class of Christian all are in need of Christ. So, the first quality of a person who can disciple others is a strong understanding of the gospel.

         A person who is to teach and lead another in what Christ taught and how Christ lived must have a firm grasp of the gospel, the good news that Christ brought us. The gospels importance in discipleship provides the grounds of grace by which one can speak truth into someone else’s life. This is the center of our religion, the person and work of Christ. We preach (and disciple) Christ and Him crucified. We don’t give people our own wisdom, but God’s, we don’t give them a list of things to do, but a relationship to be lived out.
         Secondarily, a person who disciples others must be humble. Understanding that we have nothing to give others but Christ, gives the one doing discipleship a humble perspective on life. I heard Kevin DeYoung say something profound along these lines. He said that the most important thing for the counselor or discipelor to confess is what John the Baptist confessed in John 1:20 ‘He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”’ When we take ourselves out of the position of the Savior we put ourselves in our place and put Christ in the place of supremecy that he belongs in.

         Thirdly, the one who leads others must be faithful, trustworthy, respectable, self-controlled and not a new believer. Does this sound familiar? The one who disciples ought to display some of the same traits of a church officer as they are laid out in I Timothy 3. But as I say that, not all who disciple need to be church officers. This common mistake, that only church officers or leaders can disciple, is flatly false and must be avoided. All Christians can, should and do disciple it is just a matter of whether they are intentional and biblical or confused and worldly. 

         These are but a few of the things that ought to mark our lives as believers in Christ. But not all of us have lives that are marked by these characteristics, so what are we to do? First, rest in the gospel truth of what is true about you. Where you failed Christ suceeded. Where you disobeyed Christ obeyed. Where your character falls short, Christ's abounds. Now that you are united to Christ, His righteousness is now yours and your failures and shortcomings were taken by Him and nailed to the cross. Second, through prayer cling to cross and find forgiveness for sin and ask for the discipline to live in the power of the Spirit. Third, find someone to help you grasp these realities and grow into the image of the firstborn. Fourth, start to practice on your family and in your discipleship of your family see that you are fulfilling Christ's call to make disciples.

         Praise God that he uses clay pots to pour out his grace on others!

[1] Bill Hull, The complete book of discipleship (Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2006) 26

The Rare Jewel of Contentment

 I don’t know about you, but I need the tenth commandment.  One of my tendencies is toward materialism, so I need to guard against the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).  The command not to covet is so entirely against the norms that we see around us every day.  Just take a drive up and down the streets of San Diego, and what do you see?  You see the endless temples to the goddess of our American culture: the strip mall.  Or worse, the mecca where all must pilgrimage at least once per Christmas season – the UTC Mall.  If that’s not enough of a fix, the Mission Valley Mall – or even the Parthenon of shopping, Horton Plaza beckons us.  Inside these temples you find the shrine for our idol of choice - The god called “Gimme.”

In an article for Christianity today titled “Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing,” Mark Buchanan puts it this way:

 I belong to the Cult of the Next Thing. It's dangerously easy to get enlisted. It happens by default—not by choosing the cult, but by failing to resist it. The Cult of the Next Thing is consumerism cast in religious terms. It has its own litany of sacred words: more, you deserve it, new, faster, cleaner, brighter. It has its own deep-rooted liturgy: charge it, instant credit, no down-payment, deferred payment, no interest for three months. It has its own preachers, evangelists, prophets, and apostles: ad men, pitchmen, celebrity sponsors. It has, of course, its own shrines, chapels, temples, meccas: malls, superstores, club warehouses. It has its own sacraments: credit and debit cards. It has its own ecstatic experiences: the spending spree. The Cult of the Next Thing's central message proclaims, "Crave and spend, for the Kingdom of Stuff is here." 
The tenth commandment cuts at San Diego (and all American) culture like no other:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

Our culture feeds on the religion of the next thing. Only in America is something two years old considered a relic.  We are tempted to sinfully desire that which we do not possess on a daily basis in this country, and in the face of this God speaks to us a simple and clear message:  do not covet.  We are naturally beings who desire.  To want something is not wrong in itself, but the danger is found when our desires rule over us and we want that which God has not given to us.  Because of our coveting spirit, we would be hopelessly lost if not for the saving blood of Jesus.  As we’ll see in this command, the antidote is found in fostering deep and true contentment in the sufficiency of Christ.  Over the next couple of Lord’s Days in the preaching of God’s Word we will discuss the way to find true contentment in this life.  Contentment is the calling of every Christian, though it is a mystery because it goes against the grain of our culture and our flesh.  To find true contentment is a “rare jewel.”  The struggle is that we confuse our “wants” with our ONE great need.  The puritan preacher and pastor Jeremiah Burroughs in his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment speaks of the difference that occurs when conversion takes place in a person:

Before, the soul sought after this and that, but now it says, I see that it is not necessary for me to be rich, but it is necessary for me to make my peace with God; it s not necessary that I should live a pleasurable life in this world, but it is absolutely necessary that I should have pardon of my sin; it is not necessary that I should have honor and preferment, but it is necessary that I should have God as my portion, and have my part in Jesus Christ, it is necessary that my soul should be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. The other things are pretty fine indeed, and I should be glad if God would give me them, a fine house, and income, and clothes, and advancement for my wife and children: these are comfortable things, but they are not the necessary things; I may have these and yet perish for ever, but the other is absolutely necessary. No matter how poor I am, I may have what is absolutely necessary: thus Christ instructs the soul.

This reflects what Jesus said to the rich man who wanted to inherit eternal life, and thought he was justified before God because of his law-keeping:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22)

Is it wrong to have possessions, even wealth?  NO!  This is not the point.  Jesus wasn’t condemning him for being wealthy, but rather He went to his heart sin: the man coveted his wealth, and was faced with the great question – what is my TRUE need?  Do I need more and more to be content in this life, or am I content in Christ alone, where my only hope is found?  When we zealously seek the overwhelming riches of God’s mercy given to us at the cross, then the things of this world lose their luster: 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

As we probe the intricacies of the tenth commandment in the coming weeks, let’s pray that God would show us the way of contentment in Christ alone.

Seeking our true treasure,
Pastor David