I am preaching this message at Pine Grove Baptist Church this morning so I want to put it in writing so that I can once again, think through the process. I want to write about the process of discipleship from St. Paul’s 2nd epistle to his best disciple, Timothy. By looking at this epistle, we can learn many truths about the importance of discipleship and the process itself. In our modern Western world of self reliance and independence, many times, even in our churches, the concept of discipleship as found in the Word of God, is simply foreign to us. Instead of trying to change the Word of God to fit our culture, we need to change our perspective and understanding. We need to come to the Word with a teachable spirit, ready to learn and apply what we find, even if it is counter-culture in many cases. I want to look at 8 principles of discipleship that must be followed if you want your faith to grow and your church to be healthy. These truths are for every member of the church, not just the super saints who probably already follow this process. If applied, your relationship with God will be revolutionized. If ignored, you will continue on, having faith be a part of your life instead of your way of life.
1. In order for discipleship to flourish in your life and church, you need to have faithful examples to follow. Timothy was a great disciple because he had great examples to look to for guidance. Not only did Timothy come from a family of faith, he also had a personal mentor in his life, St. Paul. Let’s look to the Word to see what we can learn.
To Timothy, my beloved child: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (II Tim. 1:3,5)
Paul discovered Timothy while he (Paul) was on a mission trip planting churches. Timothy was already a believer. He came from a family of faith yet he was not a believer just because of his family. His faith was his own. He saw genuine faith lived out by both his grandmother and his mother, which led him to have his own personal faith in God. Although he was a believer, he needed a mentor to give him direction in his life and Paul stepped in to fill that role. He took Timothy and helped him live out his faith by serving the Lord in a practical way, by serving the people around him. Do you have examples of faith to look to in your own life? Do you have a mentor in your life like Paul was to Timothy? In order for discipleship to flourish in your life and in order for your faith to be real, having an impact on you, you must have examples of faith to look to and also a mentor in your life to guide you to spiritual maturity. In fact, what we call mentoring today, is what the Bible calls the process of discipleship. You take your life and invest it in someone else, teaching that person to live as you live.
2. Discipleship begins, when a mentor invests in you and you develop your own personal relationship with God by being born again. Unfortunately, many people believe that faith is something inherited from your parents. For example, if you are born in a Christian family, in the middle of a Christian nation then you, yourself, must be a Christian. This is false reasoning. The Bible teaches that no person is born a Christian, instead we all are born sinners (heathens) and must be adopted into the family of God. Timothy’s faith was his own, he was a born again Christian because he had the proof of the new birth.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (II Tim. 1:6-7)
The proof of being born again is the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life. The Spirit of God brings a transformation. Before being born again, by accepting Christ as Lord (Master) and Savior and repenting (turning away) from our sins, we constantly fear (everything, death mostly), do not love unconditionally (we are selfish, I love because of what I receive out of the situation), are powerless over sin and lack self-control. After being born again, we receive the Spirit which gives us power (over fear, over sin) unconditional love, and self-control (the ability to say NO to sin and temptation). Timothy was born again. Have you been born again? Do you live in fear or do you have the power to overcome fear through the Holy Spirit of God? Are you controlled by sin and temptation or do you practice self-control, saying no to sin and temptation constantly? Do you love others because you receive something out of the deal or do you love because God loved you and you want to love others no matter what?
3. You must not be ashamed of the Gospel and prove this by living out the Gospel and sharing It with others. Because Timothy had examples of true faith, a mentor in his life, and was born again, he was able to live out the Gospel on a daily basis as well as share the Gospel with the people around him.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (II Tim. 1:8)
Are you ashamed of the Gospel, compartmentalizing It as part of your life instead of your way of life? Do you build your life around the Gospel or is it just something that you do on Sundays? Do you constantly share the Gospel with the people around you? Do you purposely look for opportunities to share with others? Again, is the Gospel a part of your life or is It your way of life? Do you try and “fit” It into your life or does your life revolve around It? This may seem radical or fanatical but according to the Word of God, the Gospel is your life. It does not just occupy a place in your life. Take an honest evaluation of your lifestyle and be honest with what you see. Are there changes that need to be made? Maybe you need a personal mentor to help you make those changes so that the Gospel is your life instead of a part of your life.
4. Follow your mentor’s example of faith and service. Timothy’s mentor, Paul, was following Christ so as Timothy became an imitator of Paul, he became an imitator of Christ. The focus was not on Paul, the mentor, but on Christ, the Master.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. . . You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, (II Tim. 1:13, 3:10)
Your mentor will set an example by teaching you the theory of the Word of God and then show you how to apply what you learn and live it out on a daily basis. The mentor will not just pass on theory but practice. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did with His disciples. He taught them theory and then showed them how to apply what they learned in everyday life situations. This is why a mentor is vital to the process of discipleship. You learn from the mentor, who teaches you the Word, and then you become like him, living as he lives, serving the Lord by serving the people around you. Again, do you have a spiritual mentor in your life? Do you have someone who helps you study and understand the Word of God so that you can apply It to everyday life situations? If not, then your faith will never mature the way that God has planned for it. You need a mentor to follow (yes Jesus is your mentor, yet God has designed a personal, living example for you to follow, God wants you to have a Paul in your life).
5. As you are being trained in the process of discipleship, seek to make disciples. Now that you have a Paul in your life, who is training you and guiding you to maturity in the faith, you need to search for a Timothy, a disciple to follow you.
what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (II Tim. 2:2)
God has made a plan to keep us on the right path by sandwiching us in between a mentor and a disciple. We should always have a Paul and a Timothy in our lives so that the mentor is looking at us and our disciple is looking to us. If tempted to “stray” there is a built in system of accountability, at all times. One or the other will be looking either at you or to you so you must remain faithful. It is still your personal choice and you must make it but God helps us out by giving us personal accountability from both sides.
6. Be faithful in your walk with the Lord. As you are mentored and mentor others, you must stay connected to the source, the Word of God so that you can be faithful as a disciple and as a disciple maker.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (II Tim.2:15)
By studying the Word of God you will be able to rightly handle the Word and use it in the process of making disciples. It will become your manual, your user’s guide. Are you a student of the Word of God? Remember, students’ main purpose in life is to study and apply what they learn. They study on a daily basis and use the skills that they learn, in every day life situations. Do you do this with the Word of God?
7. Follow the user’s guide/manual. Discipleship is not man’s creation and therefore we need instructions on how it works, written by the manufacturer. Thank the Lord that we have the user’s guide.
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 competent, equipped for every good work. (II Tim. 3:16-17)
The Bible is our user’s manual and It equips us for the job. We all want to be competent workers and God has made it possible. We (especially men) just need to follow the directions given to us by the manufacturer of the product. If we will use the Scriptures as our guide, instead of our own wisdom and experience then we will be taught how to do it, shown where we are wrong and need to be corrected, then we will be corrected and set on the right path, then we will be trained to stay on that path and of course, we will have good results. It seems like in our modern church age, we seem to try every method available, except the one the has been proven to work throughout the ages, the Word of God. Use the Word as your guide in being a good disciple and making good disciples.
8. Be a life long student of the Word, even after you have already had great success in the process of making disciples. The great Apostle Paul, writer of 13 books of the N.T., church planter, and world’s greatest missionary, continued to study the Scriptures until the very end of his life. He worked according to the Scriptures and lived by them. He was constantly connected to the Word of God.
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (II Tim. 4:13)
The Scriptures were written on parchments during Paul’s life and being in prison, he wanted to use that “free” time to study the Word, even though he had already written so much and done so many great things. He knew the source of his success, the Word of God. Among Christians there is a misconception that God created us with batteries and we need to recharge them now and again from the Word of God. That is false. God made us to be like limps with a power cord. If we are not plugged in to the source then we are useless. We must stay plugged in to the source, the Word of God, even until the very end, if we want to be successful in the process of being and making disciples.
What about you my friend, does your life measure up to the teachings of Scripture in the area of discipleship? Do you have a mentor? Do you have disciples? If there is not a definite “yes” to both of these questions then you need to make a change. The process does not conform to you or your way of life, instead, you and your way of life, conform to the process. What will you do with what you have learned? May God help us be obedient to His clear Truth.