I have taught this course many, many times. Each time I study it, I learn something new about discipleship and what it means to be a genuine Christian. Lesson 1 is the foundation for the entire study. It lays the base to be built upon. Of course, it begins with Jesus, the ultimate disciple maker. Jesus, while on earth, did not invent the process of discipleship. We see discipleship in the very beginning, when God discipled Adam and Eve, teaching them to disciple their children. This idea is passed down through the entire Old Testament.
I. The calling to be a disciple
Let’s take a look at Matthew 4:17-22. There are several things that I would like to point out about how Jesus made disciples. The process begins with the message of the Gospel. Jesus began to preach. This phrase implies that everywhere Jesus goes and everything He does is accompanied by this message, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The word repent comes from the Greek word “metanoeo”. This Greek word is a combination of two other Greek words, “meta” and “noeo”. Meta means after and noeo means a profound understanding. Literally it means an action that takes place after a profound understanding of a message. The traditional understanding of repentance is turning away from something and turning to something else. As used in its original context, repentance meant a change of mind that leads to a change of action. After you have a profound understanding of the message of the Gospel, your mind is changed and your actions follow. What is the message of the Gospel in this context?
- the kingdom of heaven is at hand
- follow Jesus
- He will make you fishers of men
The hearers of the message were to have their minds changed. The kingdom of heaven is not far off, it is actually here. Jesus brings the kingdom of heaven to us. His message is to focus on following Him, allowing Him to transform us into fishers of men. The key here is 1) understanding the message, and, 2) immediately taking action. This is what the disciples did. They knew that they were dedicating their lives to following Jesus Christ. Jesus spent the rest of His life discipling these men, preparing them to go and make more disciples.
What were these men being called to be and to do?
II. The cause
The cause that Jesus called the disciples to undertake is found in Matthew 10:16-22. Christ is going to give the disciples theoretical training and practical training at the same time. Theory without practice is not useful. Practice without theory is actually destructive. When theory and practice are combined, lessons are learned and applied. This is one of the keys to productive discipleship. Many Seminaries give you theory but not much practice. Many small churches can offer you practice but not giving much theory. The Eurasian Inductive Bible study Institute is one place where you can get both theory and practice built into the program. I am so thankful to the Lord that I was able to attend, graduate from, and teach with this awesome institute. Jesus is going to teach the disciples to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. This will happen through theory and practice. As you are being discipled and looking to make disciples, here are some things that will happen to you.
- Handed over to courts and synagogues
- Brought before governors and kings
- You will have enemies from among your own family members and relatives
All of these things will happen to you because of the Gospel, specifically because you are preaching the Gospel in your pursuit of making disciples. When you find yourself in these circumstances because of the Gospel, realize that they are also an opportunity to preach the Gospel even more. The cause is making disciples. The way that we do it is through preaching and teaching the Gospel. The theory will help you know what to say in the midst of the practical assignments.
The next part of the cause is seen in Matthew 10:24-31. As you seek to make disciples, you will be persecuted by the people around you. You will be just like your Master, Jesus Christ. In fact, the people who persecute you are persecuting Jesus in you. The things that Jesus has whispered to you in private, shout them from the roof tops. You calling is to make disciples by using the message of the Gospel. Make that message known to the world. Do not feat the enemies of the Gospel. They may kill the body but they cannot touch your soul. Fear the Lord, the only One who can touch your soul.
The final part of the cause that I would like to examine is found in Matthew 10:32-33. In order to make disciples, we have to confess Jesus Christ before men. To confess means to agree with someone about something. We have to confess the Biblical truth about who Jesus is to the world around us. What kind of commitment is needed to be able to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
III. The commitment
Is there a level of commitment or, can we accept Christ and live as we please? Let’s see what Jesus has to teach on this subject in Matthew 10:34-40. It is a total commitment. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, to become His disciples, to become Christians, He calls us to a 100% commitment. We have to love Him more than anything else, even more than our own lives. We actually give up our lives, our will and embrace His will. We daily deny ourselves and our will. We daily die to our selfish, independent way of living. We choose to follow Jesus Christ moment by moment, day by day. If anything comes between Christ and us, it is wrong, even if it is something noble, like our families. This is not a new teaching. The Old Testament teaches us that anything that comes between our relationship with God is an idol and idolatry is a sin. One of the 10 commandments deals with not having any other gods before the One true God.
My dear friend, have you answered the call of the Gospel to a life of discipleship? Are you learning the cause through theory and practice? Are you seeking to make disciples by spreading the message of the Gospel to the people around you? How committed are you? Is there anything in your life that keeps you from being 100% committed to being discipled and making disciples? May the Lord help us all answer the call, learn the cause, and be fully committed to the process of discipleship.