|Volume 23 Number 3 March 2021
Shortly before Jesus left this earth to return to Heaven, He had some final words to give to His disciples. Matthew 28:18-20 is often called the Great Commission passage, and it says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
These instructions are the final marching orders given to the followers of Jesus. While the missionary preachers of the New Testament did “Go” far and wide preaching the message that Christ commanded to be taught, there is a different view to the work of evangelism. The emphasis is not on the “going” but rather on “making disciples.” The emphasis in these verses is the main verb that is translated “make disciples.” That thought in these words is the driving force behind our discipleship and our evangelism. Jesus was telling us also as His followers to go along in life making disciples by baptizing and teaching others to obey. This is what discipleship is all about. Every one of us is to be involved in discipleship if we are followers of Jesus Christ. This is not just for those of who have special abilities for teaching and evangelism. This is for all of us. Just remember that disciples are made, not born. So, how do we make disciples? Much of the New Testament is written to explain discipleship. Following are seven tips about discipleship. These are in no particular order and are not an exhaustive list, but the seven tips discussed below are essential to true discipleship.
1. Live a Christ-Centered Life
To live Christ-centered is to truly live life the way it was meant to be lived. This is the life in which Jesus Christ is the center of one’s life. When Christ is the center, He will impact every area of life. That is what is meant when we yearn earnestly to be like Christ!
2. Modeling: Lead by Example
Modeling your life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus is so important. It does not mean that you are perfect and that you will always be seen as perfect. No, what it means is that we can show another person how important Christ is to us by regulating the way we live. This may involve bowing for prayer in a busy restaurant, not to be seen of men but showing that you are not ashamed to openly thank God for the riches and grace He bestows on us every day of our lives. It may involve inviting someone to your house for a night of fun watching football or a show of your choosing. Open your home and be hospitable. People can learn how important Christ is to you by the way you treat your spouse and children or even in the way you interact with others who come into your life.
3. Be a Humble Servant
Humility is a virtue that is dear to the heart of Jesus. This is often one of the hardest characteristics for even longtime Christians to consistently practice. We can show our humility in many ways. In what we call “The Beatitudes” of Matthew 5, Jesus includes both humility and meekness in His description of a mature Christian. When we humble ourselves and put the needs of others before our own, it is then God responds to address our cares. He will give us favor with Him and with man (Proverbs 3:3-5).
Discipleship requires accountability. If you are going to disciple someone, you must keep your heart and mind on the goal of making disciples of those who do not yet know or understand Jesus’ mission and message. Have fun, but don’t forget to make disciples. One practical way to do this is by having a set of questions that both you and your disciple know you are going to discuss each meeting. Questions like: “What did you read this week?” “Were the Internet sites you looked at this week pleasing to God?” “How was your prayer time this week?”
5. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Christians over the years have learned that certain disciplines and practices help them keep the heart turned toward God. These disciplines can neither bring you salvation nor can they make you a holy person. However, they can heighten your desire, awareness and love of God. What makes something a spiritual discipline is that it takes a specific part of your way of life and turns it toward God, such as a rich and full prayer life or a determined practice of Scripture studies. Just as importantly may I suggest that you survey daily the wonder of nature that God has so bountifully put around us. Watch His earth and sky, His creatures of the animal realm, the trees and flowers, and the whole universe in which He shows us his handiwork. To discipline yourself to relish all of this is truly a blessing to every life.
6. Faithfulness: Be there
for those whom you
would make into disciples
Be well aware that everyone you meet is a potential disciple-in-the-making, and it is up to you to follow the command of Jesus to make as many disciples as you possibly can. You must be faithful and truly devoted to all men to bring them some knowledge of Who and what Jesus is. Even a momentary or casual passing conversation can be an opportunity for discipleship. Be with people in person, or if in absence, be with them in prayer. Give everyone with whom you make even casual conversation an opportunity to know the Jesus you love also loves him or her. Be faithful and carry your light of Christ with you. Leave a little of that light behind in the heart and the mind of all who may cross your path of life. Jesus has taught you to be faithful, and He depends on you to carry out your mission. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
7. Prayer and Scripture Reading
Bathe your efforts of making disciples in prayer and the reading of God’s Word. This will keep all of the other tips in balance and make sure that this relationship is not just earthly wisdom from you and your life experiences. Rather demonstrate a committed relationship where Christ and the Word of God are at the center of everything that you do. Make the Scriptures your handbook. Make your brain a storehouse of scriptural knowledge. Be ready to answer any man concerning the hope that is within you. Pray as you go out daily that you will meet someone whose life you may brighten with a message from and about the Lord Jesus Christ. Prepare your mind with a Scripture you can give to the next person you meet. This is exactly what the disciples of the first century did, and it is what God expects of you, too.
A Spiritual Diet Plan
Every new year brings the desire to make changes in our lives. We do this to make life better for ourselves. Sadly, the desire soon wanes, and we go back to our old lifestyles. This loss of hope seems to be a constant problem with New Year’s resolutions. Money, time, effort and energy are spent on January 1st that are forgotten before February 1st. I recommend declaring a revolution as a solution to this problem. Revolutions bring about change. I know it is a change of wording; however, resolutions have been broken for so long that futility almost resides in the definition of the word “resolution.” Let us desire to make lasting changes in our lives. So, no more walking around wishing to be closer to God. Let us draw nearer to Him!
There are many people who start dieting to lose physical weight. We also need to start a diet in order to follow nearer to God. Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Hunger and thirst are two of the most pressing urges people experience. The account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman serves as an example of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well while traveling through Sychar (John 4:4-26). During their conversation, the Samaritan woman believed Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah). She left her waterpot and went into the city. She gathered other people and brought them to Jesus. The disciples tried to get Jesus to eat some of the food they brought to Him. His answer to their urging pertains to our explanation concerning hungering and thirsting for righteousness. He said, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (John 4:32). “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). The hungering and thirsting we need to exhibit is to do the will of God in our daily lives. We should yearn to find ways to accomplish God’s will in our lives.
The anticipated result of a diet is to lose weight. We need to lose weight in our spiritual lives as well. The writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). This weight works with sin to hinder our abilities to serve God. This weight differs from person to person. The weight may appear in the form of fear, doubt, anxiety, worry or any similar thing. The writer of Hebrews encouraged struggling Christians to keep looking toward Jesus. His message proved necessary as many believers were turning aside to Judaism. They found life to be easier without being persecuted because of their belief in Jesus. The writer’s encouragement urged Christians to keep living for Christ. We also need to put away things that hinder our walk.
Exercise, generally speaking, accompanies a good diet plan. This pairing brings about maximum results. We need to incorporate spiritual exercise into our spiritual development. Again, the writer of Hebrews penned encouragement, which reads, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). We need to decide if our actions are good or evil. There are times in our lives when we put our lives on autopilot. We engage in activities for no other reason than by habit. Other times, we act in our best interest without regard to right and wrong. What if our actions are contrary to biblical teaching? What if our actions push us further away from Christ? We need to exercise discernment so we can go to our desired heavenly home.
Running brings about early results when losing weight. Spiritually speaking, we need to be running more. Paul explained, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way to obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). How often do we live life just going through the motions? We have busy schedules and give no notice to anything outside of our schedules. Oh, how our lives would change if we lived a purposeful life! We need to plan to live our lives for God every single day. This type of life allows God to work in us and through us. How much good could we do by intentionally talking to people about God? How much good would result if we studied the Bible with the intent of applying its message to our lives? How about going to worship services with the intention of pouring our heart out to the Almighty? We need to be intentional and purposeful in our daily living so we can finish our race with gladness.
A Spiritual Diet Plan
There are many different diet plans to help one lose weight. These plans outline the foods one needs to eat to lose weight. Some diet plans even list exercises to maximize result. The spiritual diet plan reigns supreme in spiritual growth. Paul taught, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Reading, studying and applying Scripture to our lives brings big gains to our walk with our Lord. God’s Word acts as a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of our hearts” (Hebrews 4:12). It also lightens our path (Psalm 119:105) so we can know the direction we are taking in this life. A life built on God’s Word will yield much spiritual fruit.
Physical changes are temporary. Spiritual changes last for eternity. You are worth all of the necessary effort to succeed in growing closer to God. May we always yearn to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”