Our discipleship programs have often failed because we have not introduced God's people to God through Christ but rather to us. We have followed the world's trail where we place our confidence on what we have learned in the past rather than what the Father would teach us each day. As we look at Isaiah 50:4-5 we find a wealth of insight in how we are to live out our Christian lives for effective service.
'The Heart of True Discipleship' will help you catch a vision of not only how to effectively disciple others but also to gain some practical tools on how to be part of God's exciting process of making disciples.
We will show you how to correct your original copy and purify your vision and understanding of who Christ is. Actually, I think a lot of us really don't take seriously the challenge to be like Christ. We just don't think it possible. But we are to be like Christ! We are to be holy. We need to get a better glimpse of who Jesus Christ is and what made Him the way He was. To be like Him we need to live like Him.
The church and home need to have a biblical plan for discipleship. We need to be deliberate in obeying Christ's command to make disciples (Matthew 28:20). There are three key elements to discipling:
Three problems arise as we try to reproduce this truth in others:
(1) We have flaws.
(2) Imperfect copying system.
(3) Goal is Christ.
We seem to find ourselves in an impossible situation.
Take a brief look at the seahorse on the right. Cover the picture up. Now state what you have learned about that seahorse. Perhaps you noticed his head, body and tail. Take another look. This time look more intently. You might notice the brown spots with 'eyes.' You might even be able to say how many there are. The more you painstakingly study this picture, the more you will discover.
This is true with the Lord too. Our discipleship meetings must be special times in the Lord's presence where the disciple gets a clearer understanding of the Lord. This is not too easy though.
We do not have a picture of Jesus. God is invisible. The Spirit of God is present, but the word 'spirit' implies an inability to see. How do we then help our trainees 'see' God?! How are we to help people get a better glimpse of Jesus?
People are to get a picture of Jesus through our lives. He is so wonderfully glorious. How are people supposed to know Jesus through people like us? At this point you might feel inadequate to make disciples of Christ.
"I don't think so."
But what about the next generation?
The real problem.
Couples don't put off marriage nor should they put off having children. We are to trust God for grace to work through the problems in our lives. This is true for the area of discipleship too. Although our reasoning not to disciples others because of immaturity sounds so 'spiritual,' it is outright disobedient. Christ Himself charged us with this duty to make disciples. We must not put it off.
Need to grow not to excuse ourselves.
A Few Key Thoughts on Discipleship
If we are going to be good disciple makers, then we need to turn to Jesus Christ and look at how He trained disciples. We will discover the heart of discipleship rests not so much on what one says but what one does. Words of instruction confirm the life message. We will pursue Jesus in our lives through observing and imitating Christ.
The Gospels are where we see Christ lived before us. The New Testament epistles (letters) are where we see the doctrinal significance of what Christ did and said. The Old Testament gives us special prophetic insights into the life of Christ. This later point is what we want to look at here in Isaiah 50:4.
The Servant Song
The Possibility of Being like Christ
• Christ's Example
Let us take a closer look at how Christ lived out a godly life. We will focus on four particular aspects of what makes a good disciple from Christ's own example. Each becomes for us a Christ-like trait.
Many of us miss out on the key heart of Christ: His humility. Without using His divine powers, He was limited just as we are. He needed to use the same tools and revelation that God had given to us all. Of course, He had a special calling, and God would give Him the gifts necessary to accomplish this. This is true, though, with each one of us. God will equip each of us for His special calling upon our lives.
We see this humble learning spirit in the first phrase of Isaiah 50:4. Let's first look more closely to what the first line of this verse says in different translations.
This particular phrase has two meanings. One interpretation says that the Messiah was given a tongue of learners. The other interpretation is a tongue of the learned. Although they sound quite different, both senses can be true. He is both a disciple and a discipler. He is both learning as well as helping others to learn. Those that have learned are the learned and those that have sat at a wise master is wise as his master.
One of our failures of training men of God is to adopt the world's method of making the person the center of knowledge. By this I mean we cram all the knowledge we can get, including Bible knowledge, and in a few years stuff it down into his brain. After this process we hang a tag around his neck and call him a graduate and in some cases ordained. From then on he is suppose to know all the answers. Most churches when looking for a pastor look for these tags. If they find them, then all is suppose to be okay.
This is very different from how Christ lived out His life. It is not that there were not seminaries and graduate schools back then. No this was not the issue. The issues were more fundamental. It has to do with how we view life. Let me make three essential differences.
(1) Discipleship occurs all the time; it never stops. Once the heart to learn from God stops, the Christian no longer has genuine communion with God.
(2) Discipleship focuses on knowing God as the living source of knowledge rather than some abstract knowledge. People often get bored with hearing the same Bible stories over and over. This is because we focus on knowledge about the Bible rather than knowing God Himself.
(3) Discipleship produces discipler makers through experiencing God's grace. We see that Christ knew what to say because He had been a learner, a disciple. In other words, we can only be as good a teacher as we are a disciple.
Christ lived on our own level of limited knowledge. The key wasn't the right course but the right life. In the right life, He would regularly meet with God. Let's look at a few verses to help illustrate what we mean by this. You will see the common theme: Jesus both was a master learner as well as a master teacher. They go together. One has to be a good disciple to be a good discipler. This never stops throughout a Christian's life no matter how experienced he is. Take the branch off the vine and it will quickly die.
The one who disciples must regularly meet with God. If he doesn't, then he should not disciple. He is trusting his knowledge and experience rather than God's. The disciple will pick up pride more than anything else from his trainer.
Learning with questions. The point is not that we have a so-called quiet time, but that we are actually meeting God during those times. BFF has a whole section devoted to restoring our devotional times, but let me just follow through one thought here.
The learner is not only asking questions but also pleading for help. The sign of learning is the acknowledgment that he is missing something. James says, "If you lack wisdom,"what are you suppose to do? Ask. We are to plead for help in areas that we sense responsibility to fulfill.
Do we have the attitude of learning? Are we seeking to understand those things around us? Can we not ask God to restore our tongue of learning? If we have stopped asking and pleading, then we have stopped learning.
Jesus wanted to know the truth. He wanted to learn it so that He could carry out His Father's ministry of helping others. He regulated His activities so that He could hear from His Father. He expected to hear all that He needed to know. His Father would tell Him.
A disciple serves others.
"If we love one another, God abides in us."(1 John 4:12)
His life purpose is to serve.
My learning and gifts must not be rooted in serving others not myself. God has given each of us the ability to inquire so that we can advance our knowledge and abilities for the sake of other people. I am astounded that so many Christian parents have given themselves over to the pursuit of ungodly goals. Anytime the motivation ends up serving my own ends, then one can see that we are perverting the learning process.
His motivation for training is service.
Each one of us must pursue an examination on the reason God has so gifted us. We need to understand it is ultimately for others and not for ourselves. We see this in Jesus. He died to Himself. He lived for others. When the Father asked to give His life, He went back to His purpose of living to do my Father's will' and gave what it took. Do you remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 1? Paul takes the example of Christ and from it draws the conclusion that because our purpose is to serve, so that our experiences in life need to be rigorous and tough at times so that we can become effect ministers of comfort to others.
We focus on strengthening weak ones.
If we have not identified our purposes, then it is probably wrong. You might wonder how can I have 'other' motives for something like a undergrad or grad degree? Let me give you two positive goals.
Once you transform your degree goals into serving , then all of a sudden your life becomes a mission. You wonder, pray and seek God in His Word and in the world to make a difference for others out there. It incorporates not just our knowledge skills that we are acquiring but our whole lives. It has to do with the size of my savings account, the kind of car I have and the way I spend time and money.
How much time have you really spent in prayer and reading to understand God's place for you in this world? 5 minutes (just now hearing you speak); 1 hour some conference; I am going to start tonight. Oh that we might take the precious gifts God has given to us and transform them into gold, silver and diamonds for others!
We wonder if the world of artificial light has changed the perimeters of Christ's example. Many seem to boast about being awake at night and sleeping during the day! For the most part, that lifestyle is unreal and unsustainable in most living circumstances. But let us get beyond this and get to the real argument. Let's look at this line in three parts.
Guided by my Father's Purpose
Rarely have we been awakened by the Lord. This is how Jesus started His day. When one is clear on God's call for His life, then this will break down into a God's call for each day. Every day we need to get our mission assignment. I don't mean that it will be much different from the routine you now have. Again, it goes back more on how and why you do things.
When we go to sleep talking to our Father to keep us and prepare us for tomorrow, we look forward to meeting our Heavenly Father each day. We want to hear from Him. We must hear from Him. Morning devotions is rooted not in compulsion or fear but in desire to meet God and to do His will.
This will not happen if you go to bed watching movies, doing assignments or playing games. It will begin to come into existence when you pray and meditate before retiring with the expectation of meeting Him in the morning so that you can hear how He wants to work with your tomorrow to do His will.
We might think of the servant image. The servant is up early tending to the fire for the Master. He knows what his master needs so he is attentive and awakes early enough to complete his jobs. As slaves, we awaken to do our Master's will. We are attentive from the moment go.
Anticipation of my Father's Ways
Whenever any part of our life does not fit into what our Father wants, then that thing becomes an idol that we serve. What is worse still is our heart's affection to do what does not please our Father.
We wake with anticipation to meet our Father. This is the time He equips us. It is not the only time but He gives us overall sensitivity to how He will help us through the day. We look forward to times in His Word and meditate on passages in the scripture. We expect Him to speak.
The opposite to this unfortunately normal for many. Many of us have not been trained on how to meditate in God's Word or pray. We just do something and then call it devotions. One can see how cheap and inferior this is to what is suppose to happen. No wonder few Christians anticipate meeting with God! Have you ever heard someone say, "I got devotions out of the way."thought but this is easily destroyed. We fritter so many hours away each day. It is easy to see that we are not very disciplined.
Unfortunately, many of us have only been able to master the discipline of studies. For , that is even hard. Because of the downsizing of the family and the increasing wealth in our lives, we can easily sneak around without good discipline. The Father is clearly asking each of us to meet with Him morning by morning.
Someone might object saying there is no such command. But this is not the voice of a disciple. If Jesus is our Master, are we not to do what He does? I have found in my own life, that God can develop more and more discipline in my life. I thought I was disciplined, but then He brought extra responsibility into my life in the form of a project, child or needy person. I had to readjust my schedule to meet His will.
Some will protest that they meet God night by night. That is good, but we need to start off each day right by meeting Him morning by morning. This is where we get His instructions, when we praise and declare His greatness, when we are encouraged or comforted. If our needs are not met by Him, then it is difficult for us to meet the needs of others. If we are worrying about something, can we really be attentive to the needs of others? No.
The master disciple doesn't make exceptions for learning. Each day He spends time with the Lord. Each morning He eagerly seeks what God His Father would teach Him. There is no vacation from learning from the Lord.
We spoke of the tongue but now we get to discuss the ear. The ear stands for hearing and listening. In order to hear we must get close enough for a sound wave to touch our ear receptacle. If I have difficulty hearing someone, I sometimes extend my ear by cupping my hand around my ear. For hearing we need to get close but listening speaks more to the attitude.
Did you ever hear a parent call his child and the child was totally inattentive? He kept doing what he was doing. You wonder if he even heard the parent, but since you were next to him you know it was a hearing problem. He did hear but chose not to listen. He didn't respond to the words which were reaching his ears.
When we start seeing this happen in our family, we have a training session. We remind the children of the response we are expecting. Then we try it out. We call and they are to respond like we ask, "Coming Daddy."Exasperated parents often just give up and do what they were going to ask their child to do. This of course reinforces their poor response. They reason, "Oh I don't' have to do it now. Great!"Sometimes there is a meltdown from our flesh that goes, "Yes, but."
Here are some points of truth to build up your faith to always immediately yield to the Lord.
Because of this, some of you are not hearing from God. One way to fix up this problem is to go back to the last thing He has asked you to do that you beforehand had refrained from doing. You might not be able to do it, but you need to confess and repent from your disobedience. This means you will be willing to do it if He asks you again. In many cases, He will ask you to pick up right where you left off.
Just think about it. If the point of listening to your Heavenly Father is to be guided, you need a heart to accept this guidance. If this heart is lacking, you only get in more trouble by hearing things you do not want to hear. On the positive side, His will is always best for us. He is always welcoming us back close to Him.
Jesus' example was remarkable. We have spotlights on the most difficult requests the Father had given Him. Think of the temptation. Put your mind in the Garden of Gethsemane. T his was not easy circumstance. It was intensely difficult. Jesus both heard and listened to His Father. What did we learn from His obedience? That somehow God was able to work out the very best even in circumstances that seemed so difficult. God can always be trusted even in situations where we as His slaves need to distribute our wealth, go into full time service, be willing to use our spiritual gift, trusting Him for a broken relationship, etc. God's way is always the best way.
We do not have time to go on. If we did, we immediately see that this example both prophesies Christ's response at the cross as well as puts it there for our example.
Let us be disciples that never stop growing in communing with and obeying God so that we might serve one another's needs.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
4 The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient, Nor did I turn back.
6 I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
7 For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed.
8 He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me.
9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.
10 Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.