Having spent several years in a foreign country under the leadership of a mentor has caused me to see the value of Biblical discipleship, being mentored and mentoring others. Because of this experience I believe that living in another country for a significant period of time is almost a necessity for every American Christian living in the United States, especially if he or she has the opportunity to sit under the teaching of a mentor. I say this because I feel that many Christians living in Western society have lost the understanding of the meaning of discipleship, for the most part. Because the Bible was written in and to the Eastern-world with a non-Western world perspective so the idea of discipleship was more easily understood by the readers and writers during the first century. There are a few indicators of this trend that one can see by talking with Christians in average American churches about such things as sitting under the teaching of a mentor, being discipled, suffering for the Gospel, and building one’s life around the propagation of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul taught the importance of discipleship and he also foresaw the loss of significance on discipleship in the lives of future Christians. For that reason, he wrote his last epistle, just before his death. He wrote to his best disciple to pass the torch of discipleship on to the next generation. Paul writes II Timothy to Timothy in order to instruct him on “guarding the treasure” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “retaining the standard” that goes along with the Gospel.
In chapter 1 of II Timothy, Paul explains 4 important points of retaining the standard of the Gospel, or in other words, how to retain the standard that we have been given via the Word of God. These are tips for practical Christian living.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son : Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (II Timothy 1)
I. You must first serve the Lord. (3)
When you come to Christ, you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus Christ on a moment by moment basis. This is what the Bible teaches as a vital part of salvation. Without this, then you are not a disciple of Christ, not born again, and will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Once a person denies himself and is transformed by God then he or she wants to serve the Lord by serving those around him/her. Do you attend church to serve or to be served? Do you go for what you can get out of it or in order to help the people around you? You motives are important. We live in a consumer age and have brought that mentality into the church. Many people go to church to check off their list of making God happy and of course to be entertained while there. I believe that this is the reason why so many are against changing anything in “their” church. People’s motives for coming to church are revealed pretty quickly when someone wants to start “changing thing up” in the services or activities of the church. Paul explains how we are to serve while in church (and outside the walls of the building). A person who wants to serve God by serving others will do so with a clear conscience, in other words, with pure motives and from pure motives. I do not serve to get recognized. I do not serve so that I can get service in return. I serve simply because God served me and now I want to follow in His footsteps. As I serve, I look to the examples of the other servant leaders in the church and to the other examples of the people who have served me by investing the Gospel in me. When those who serve me do so out of pure motives then I will have those same pure motives as I begin to serve. I have an example(s) in my life and I want to become examples for others. Do you serve? What is your motivation? Do you have good examples to follow? Are you becoming a good example to follow?
II. You must prayerfully thank God for your disciples and work to develop close, personal relationships with them. (3-5)
As you begin to serve others you will begin to make disciples. In fact, that is the purpose of serving others, so that doors will open to evangelize and disciple the people around you. As you seek to invest the Gospel in others as It was invested in you, you need to pray for the people whom you serve. Paul remembered his disciples (he had many of them) in his every prayer as he prayed for them night and day. Do you pray for your disciples? Do you pray specifically for them? Do you pray for specific people to be open to the process of discipleship? Paul enjoyed being with and spending quality time with his disciples. Paul traveled often and spent a lot of time in prison for the Gospel so he did not get to see his disciples as often as he would have liked. When absent from them, he prayed for them and longed to see them so that he could fellowship with them, teach them, and minister with them. When they were together, they spent quality time together. If there would have been TV back then, I doubt Paul would have spent his precious time with his disciples looking at the idiot box. They used their precious time to study the Scriptures. They used what they learned to minister to others. They spent quality time together investing in eternal things. Paul knew of their sincere faith and their heritage of faith. He knew how to encourage them to continue on. Do you spend quality time with your disciples? What do you do with them when you get together? The most important question is, do you even have disciples? Making disciples is not a choice, an option if your get around to it. Making disciples is a command given by Jesus Christ to His disciples, for every generation. If you do not have disciples then they question is, why not? Maybe you are not serving the people around you. Maybe you have not denied yourself and decided to follow Christ. If you follow Christ then you will make disciples. Discipleship is the result of salvation. The Apostle Paul challenged church goers to examine themselves and see that they are in the faith. He also constantly taught, “do not be deceived” (or do not deceive yourselves). I pray that you will take an honest evaluation of your spiritual life. Maybe you are just a cultural Christian because that is what everyone around you is like. Maybe you have never been born again and God is dealing with you at this very moment. Remember, Jesus said that if a person is not born again, he will not see the kingdom of heaven. I would hate for you to miss heaven while being in church your entire life.
III. You must challenge your disciples to action. (6-7)
A person who makes disciples teaches them step by step how to serve the Lord by serving the people around them. As believers, we are called to serve. Jesus did not come to be served, instead, He came to serve. We are to follow in His footsteps. Many people want to serve and minister yet they have never been taught how to do it so they do not. Many people say, “that is what we pay the pastor for”. That may be true but it is not Biblical. The Bible teaches that we are all priests, ministers of the Word of God to the people around us, if we are true Christians. If we are followers of Christ then we have been given at least one spiritual gift to serve the church (the body) as well as to use in reaching the lost around us. As you invest in others and make disciples, teaching them the Word of God, you must constantly challenge them to put into practice what they learn showing them how to do it practically. Walk with them step by step until they can stand on their own. Teach them to be disciplined in their spiritual walk and constantly encourage them to be faithful. Paul reminded Timothy that God had changed him completely. Timothy was probably controlled by fear and timidity at one time in his life. Paul saw it and motivated Timothy to overcome that fear and timidity through the Holy Spirit of God that he had received from God. Paul had to remind Timothy of that from time to time. As he was investing in Timothy, he saw where he was doing well and where he needed to improve. Do you have this kind of realtionship with your disciples? Do you know how to encourage them in areas where they are strong and motivate them in areas where they are weak? We all need to be reminded from time to time that we have the power of God in us, the love of God, and because of that we need to be disciplined. Is this your way of life before the Lord? Are you led by the power and love of God? Are you disciplined in your spiritual walk with the Lord? Are you challenged by your mentor? Do you challenge your disciples?
Is discipleship a way of life for you? Do you serve others seeking to turn them into disciples of Christ? Do you pray for and spend quality time with your disciples? Do you encourage them and motivate them? What would happen in your church if every member lived like this? What keeps them from it? May the Lord help us in our genuine walk with Him.