The Spiritual Discipline of Discipleship
The Spiritual Discipline of Discipleship (2-13-21)
Today’s study is a big one and so important for us to understand. So, set aside some quality time, and let’s dig into the Great Commission of our Lord and His call to make disciples.
Matthew 28:18-20 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.”
If you are a Christian, someone who has died to yourself and repented of your sin and trusted your life to Jesus Christ alone for new and eternal life, then this is your Master’s command on your life. Jesus has saved us to a glorious eternal feast in His glory, whereby “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). But in the meantime, He has charged us to go and make disciples of all nations. So, while discipleship is a spiritual discipline that we must faithfully practice, it is more than that; it is the specific work Christ has charged us to do as the Church.
1. All Authority
Jesus begins by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The first step to disciple-making is to be a disciple yourself. The first step to being a disciple of Jesus is to die to yourself and live for Him in all you do. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “... You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
The first thing we must do is submit our entire lives to God; He must be our authority if we are to be His faithful disciples. Is there any part of your life that you hold the reigns on, even though it might contradict what Jesus commands or teaches in His word? Does Jesus truly have the authority in all matters of your life? We are not disciples of Christ if we are not totally surrendered to Him and ready to follow Him in all things.
Paul understands and says this so well in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What does it mean to be totally under the authority of Jesus? What does it mean to die to self and live to Christ?
Luke 14:25-27 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
The Scriptures teach if you are reborn, your life is a life of surrender to self. It is obedience and submission to the authority of Jesus. So, the first step is to truly count the cost.
2. Count the Cost
Jesus spoke often of, and specifically to, the cost of following Him. He wants people to truly count the cost to being a disciple of Christ. For example, consider what Jesus said to the scribe who came and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus frankly told this apparent volunteer-for-service that it would not be easy: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:19-20; Luke 9:57-58).
Another disciple wanted to be excused from his immediate obligation of obedience so that he might go and care for his aged father, but Jesus would allow no delay. Jesus said, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Matthew 8:21-22; Luke 9:59-60). Another man indicated that he would follow Jesus, but on his own terms. He wanted to first bid farewell to his family, perhaps anticipating a merry good time doing it. But Jesus put it to him straight: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
The point is clear: the disciple does not go to the disciple-maker and lay out his own terms for discipleship, as this lacks the very submission that Christ demands for His faithful followers. Therefore, every person must count the cost. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). Not to do so was tantamount to inviting ridicule later from the world. The same would be true of a king in war who did not consider the cost of victory before hostilities began. To sum it up bluntly, Jesus said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33; see Mark 10:21; Matthew 19:21; Luke 18:22).
3. Go Therefore
Next, Jesus says in this Great Commission, “Go therefore ...” (Matthew 28:19).
This is not speaking of going to a specific location but is speaking of an investment outside of yourself, an investment into others. It means you cannot stay. You cannot keep to yourself. His authority is for a purpose that He is going to put to work in and through you. It’s not to terminate on you; it is something that involves your investing outside of yourself.
“Go therefore” means get up; it means go out. One of the realities of our sin is that we only live our lives for ourselves. When we are struggling with our sin, we want to be selfish. We don’t want to go; we want to stay—stay where we are comfortable, stay at home on the couch and just consume and be entertained or work longer hours so we can consume more stuff.
It is so easy to make the Christian life about what we get and not about what we give. We really need to understand this. Why are we called to go? Why do we move outside ourselves with our time and money and lives and not just stay in and serve ourselves? Because of “therefore.” It’s not just “Go”; it’s “Go therefore.”
The “therefore” ties the going, the investing, to what was just said: Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth … go therefore! When we get who Christ is, who we are in Christ, and what He is doing in the here-and-now in the world, we will not stay. We will not keep to ourselves and make our paycheck and buy our groceries and do what we want to do! Instead, we will go (invest into others); we will live with a life-changing confidence in the authority of the One who sent us. We will invest in, and make the most of, our days that He gives us to go in His authority.
4. Make Disciples
Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples …”
If we are going to make disciples, we need to know what a disciple is. The standard definition of “disciple” (noun) is someone who adheres to the teachings of another. It is a follower or a learner.
· In the work world, it is an apprentice.
· In the Motorcycle Club world, it is a probate/prospect.
· In Jedi training, it is a Padawan.
A “disciple” is someone who adheres to the teachings of another. Applied to Jesus, a disciple is someone who is trained to be like Christ. Making disciples of Jesus is the responsibility of Christians who submit to Christ’s Commission. Making disciples involves training in God’s word, calling people to become those who learn from Christ, teaching people what Christ has commanded and to obey all He has commanded, teaching them to obey in the context of church life, and summoning the church to command all nations to follow Jesus and become little Christs, and as a result, glorify God and fulfill Jesus’ Commission.
If we are going to “make disciples,” we must first be discipled. Jesus didn’t show up on the scene and say to a bunch of fishermen, “Go make disciples.” They didn’t know Christ yet, so how could they teach others to be like Him? They hadn’t yet been trained by Christ and His word, so how could they teach others His word?
What Jesus did say to them was, “Follow me.” “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). I am going to teach you—to disciple you—to do a different kind of fishing: a fishing that will change men and their families, not just for a season but for eternity, not just for their own good but for the eternal glory of God!
Being discipled today is just what it was for those fishermen. It’s the journey of a trained and matured follower of Christ discipling another, teaching him, and helping him mature in Christ.
Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Being discipled starts with your hunger to not stay where you are in your faith journey. There is a hunger and humility you must have in order to grow, study, change, and mature. The first disciples were hungry and willing to do what was needed to reprioritize their lives to be discipled by Jesus.
Is this a description of your life? Is this a marker of your Christian faith? Do you claim the title “Christian” because you are saved, and you attend church? Or are you truly a “Little Christ” in that you are making prioritized adjustments in your life to be discipled into Christ likeness? Is your belonging to Christ or following Christ more of a life-long idea or ideal, or is it a clear and focused daily reality? Do your friends and family see you and your daily investment to be discipled and to make disciples of Jesus?
Hear it this way: hungry, teachable, faithful followers of Christ will be continual learners from Jesus as they sit under the preaching of God’s word and discipleship in such a way that they become doers of it.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves
No matter how long you have been a believer, the question for many of you is this: Have you truly been discipled? I mean trained in the word and mentored in how to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ. More than that, have you been trained how to be a disciple-maker of others?
The life of a Christian is a life of ongoing faith, repentance, ministry, and mission. It is being equipped and deployed. It is being sent to contribute to the mission of God in this world, which is to make disciples whom Christ has redeemed from every nation, building Christ’s Church among all peoples, and calling them into the fullness of the kingdom of God.
What does it mean to “make disciples”?
I want you to think about this: in your life, who do you know who is a disciple-maker? I mean someone who has really devoted themselves to training, mentoring, teaching, and modeling the Christian life in such a way that it points that student, that learner, that person (that disciple) to Jesus. The result of this kind of discipleship is someone who is truly growing in Christ, maturing in Christ, becoming more Christ-like, obedient to Christ, and all about Christ.
Here is my loving point in all this: If we take seriously Jesus’ words about what it looks like to sacrificially follow Him and to make disciples, when you think of the church and those in it, you should be able to identify far more Christians who are “making disciples” than you currently can.
Paul shows us this at work when he wrote to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:9 (NIV) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This leads us to the meat of what discipleship is: It is training! It is teaching. Again, the definition of “disciple” is someone who adheres to the teachings of another. It is a follower or a learner. So, a critical part of discipleship is teaching. Jesus endorses this in His commissioning of the Church. Look with me at verse 20 of Matthew 28:
Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you ...”
Disciples are made through the ministry of the word entrusted to the church, including preaching, teaching, evangelism, and counseling. The word teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The word makes disciples, and Christ makes disciples through the word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Is that not a picture of discipleship? So, discipleship will include instruction, study, and digging into God’s word and truths. It is the process of conforming our minds to God’s will and way. This is how we are shaped.
Let me remind you that the goal is to make disciples of Christ—not disciples of you! In 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, Paul encourages the church to follow his example, as he follows the example of Christ. You can say with Paul, “Watch me as I follow Christ.” Christ is the One we want to be like. Christ is still the One we are learning to be like. He is the One we ultimately follow and belong to!
5. Of All Nations
Matthew 28:18-19 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 …”
The goal is to multiply the church and send out qualified, readied disciple-makers. To send someone not ready into the battlefield is not a manner worthy of God. The sending is not just the packing of a bag and the giving of supplies; it is the preparation and training to know what to do with those supplies.
Again, we must send readied “disciple-makers,” not just evangelists. Too many missions efforts are only about evangelism. But, to simply evangelize and then leave is to leave a newborn baby on the side of the road with no one to be its family and nurture and train and grow that new life in Christ.
Jesus’ Commission on us to “make disciples of all nations” means our disciple-making eventually has a global reach. If we are not putting boots on the ground to make disciples, we are missing the point of our Commission and God’s plan to have His name known and praised among the nations. The goal in our discipleship is to be able to send readied disciple-makers to go to the ends of the earth to plant churches and make disciples there. It is not enough to just be comfortable here and send some money to those who are willing to go overseas.
“There is a big difference between a church that ‘has’ missionaries (on the back of their bulletin or as a line item in their budget) and a church that ‘sends’ missionaries.” -John Piper
We must do both! We cannot do just one.
- If we send but don’t support, we have cut them off and ceased to be the church to them.
- If we support but don’t send, we have stopped the work of discipleship and duplication to pay others to do this work for us.
We all are called to the missional work of disciple-making. You are a part of global missions if you are a part of making disciples.
The true role of the modern-day church is not what we have made it to be:
Great music, comfortable church venues, exciting events, and attractive activities
Great preaching that stimulates the mind and stirs the heart
Helpful counseling and authentic fellowship with others
All that is worth nothing if we are not following Christ to take up our cross and go—giving ourselves to others in testifying of our faith, baptizing those new believers, training them up, teaching them the whole counsel of God, and helping them mature in Christ unto the disciple-making of others.
This is what it means to be a Christian: a disciple of Christ.
So, I ask you today:
What do you need to do to get on board?
What do you need to repent of to make time and energy and room to do this very thing God has saved you and called you to do?
Who do you need to get with to dig in?
Remember, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Let us practice the spiritual discipline of disciple-making for the glory of God and the good of those He still intends to save worldwide.
By His grace and for His glory,
-Joshua “Shepherd” Kirstine
Soldiers For Jesus MC