Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.
Two young men who came to our church for a while were talking to one of our leaders about the high value we place on discipleship at regen. One erroneously offered, ‘It’s not about us having to change; Jesus didn’t ask us to do that – He did it all on the cross.’ The other said he didn’t think discipleship was for him. It is tragic that these two guys viewed discipleship in such a warped way. Discipleship is for every Christian – no exceptions. Suffice to say, those young men drifted away from the church and, as far as I know, are not living for Jesus.
It only takes a quick glance at any of the four Gospels to see that discipleship was very much Jesus’ ‘thing’. It was high on His agenda. In fact, it was like the Mount Everest of His agenda. He shared the whole of His ministry with twelve guys, teaching them how to be His faithful followers. The other New Testament books have an understanding, assumed or otherwise, that those who call themselves Christians will be disciples of Christ and that they in turn will disciple others.
The word ‘Christian’ only appears three times in the Bible, but the word ‘disciple’ occurs more than 260 times in the New Testament. This gives good reason to place a high value upon it.
Becoming a disciple is not about signing up to a programme, adhering to a long list of dos and don’ts, or about simply doing good deeds. Being a disciple of Jesus is about growing to be like Him, living a Spirit-filled lifestyle; one that is often at cross purposes with modern-day values.
Before we go any further, let’s unpack what the word ‘disciple’ means. The word in the Greek, in which the New Testament was written, is mathetes, which literally means ‘learner’. If you attend a church and are learning, you are on your way to being a disciple – but that is only part of what being a disciple is about. Throughout the New Testament, there is not only an expectation that Christians will have head knowledge of what is right and wrong, but also that we will actively do what the Bible commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. Disciples are far more than just learners; they are followers too. They are devoted to the teachings of Jesus, much like an apprentice; they work at making His lessons their rule of life.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
Learning and doing go hand in hand in God’s kingdom. God has no interest in simply letting us fill our heads with reams of knowledge about how to live. We have to channel the truth of what we are learning into loving, purposeful action so that we will become like the Lord.
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
(2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Our purposeful actions will identify us by the way we are living. Jesus drove this point home when He delivered His Sermon on the Mount to His disciples and the crowds who followed Him:
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
These are strong words. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches when He talks about how we should be living as Christians. This is because a crucial part of the kingdom of God is about right living. If we fail to get this right, we are simply a bunch of religious people pretending to be righteous but doing little that is right. Jude remarked that these kinds of people are ‘like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain’ (Jude 12). We live in a world with people who are thirsty for authenticity, so why would we not offer them the Water of Life they desperately need? If we are not actively engaging ourselves with the Word of God by doing what it says, then we are like clouds that don’t give rain. We hold out the promise of something refreshing, but when the time comes to deliver the goods, we are empty, leaving us incapable of quenching the thirst of people who need the Water of Life. Jesus said, ‘Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart”’ (John 7:38).
Many people believe in Jesus, but not everyone has ‘rivers of living water’ flowing out of them. I was one of those people. I believed in Jesus, I prayed and read my Bible occasionally, but my life wasn’t reflecting a passion for the Son of God’s mission in the world. I was a nice, lukewarm Christian. This was not what God had in mind when he created me. God expects a decent return on what He’s invested in me. He invested the life of His Son for my life. Is it any wonder He is expecting a high return from me in the way I live and share my faith with others? Do I merely know about Jesus or do I know Him? It is essential for me to ask myself if I am living a life of relationship with the Son of God who loved me enough to die for me.
In that lukewarm season of my life, I opened the channel of my heart just enough to permit a trickle of God’s living water to dribble into me, but that certainly wasn’t allowing for a river of living water to pour out of me to a desperately thirsty world. Deep inside I knew there was something more, something to fill that insatiable, empty feeling, but I couldn’t seem to find it. It took me some time to discover what it was that I needed to fill me up to overflowing.
I am going to share with you what I’ve learned to get that flow going from a trickle to something more like God intended. It hasn’t been easy, but it certainly has been an adventure.
God intends for His Spirit to pour into our lives, cleansing and changing us from the inside out. We in turn become a channel for the same flow in order that others too would receive the Water of Life that is Jesus Christ.
What is it going to take to get the wild river flowing? That is what we are going to explore in the next chapter.
The core premise of Holy Grit:
‘Discipleship is for every Christian – no exceptions.’
- When you think about ‘discipleship’, what comes to mind?
- In what ways is your understanding of discipleship different from or similar to what you have read in this chapter?
Read James 1:22-25.
It is not good enough to simply read the Bible, study it, or listen to a great sermon or podcast about it. We have to do what God commands. The truth behind being a disciple (mathetes) is that we are learners and followers, and more than that, we are fundamentally apprentices to our Saviour and Master, Jesus Christ. Knowledge about Him is not enough; we need skills and opportunities to exercise our faith.
- When you read the Bible, do you spend time thinking about how you can turn what you are learning into good practice?
- If not, how can you form a daily discipline of behaviour alongside what you are learning so that you are more than simply a Bible-reader?
Read Matthew 7:15-20.
Do your actions show that you are like the good tree bearing the good fruit Jesus is talking about?
Read John 7:38.
Do you feel like rivers of living water are flowing out from you? If not, what is it going to take to get them flowing?
- Prayerfully read Galatians 5:19-21 and write down any desires of the sinful nature listed there that may presently be in your life.
- Write down the good fruits you see as evidence of your walk of discipleship with Jesus from the inventory given in Galatians 5:22-23.
If you have listed any sinful behaviours, bring them before God and tell Him you are sorry that you have allowed them to rule over you. Receive His total forgiveness and thank Him for His mercy and love. Thank Him for the good spiritual fruits you see in your life and ask Him for more. He loves to cultivate them in us, and by remaining in Him and being empowered by His Spirit, the potential for producing these wonderful attributes in our lives is limitless.