Discipleship. Jesus told us to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:18 [NIV]. Many of us in the church have interpreted that to mean winning souls. But then, after commanding us to baptize these disciples, Jesus goes on to say that we should be “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:20 [NIV]. Jesus is not just looking for converts. He is looking for people who will learn and then obey everything He taught us.
This suggests that discipleship is not a one-time event but a life-long process requiring great commitment. As Jesus said, anyone who wants to be a disciple must “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow [Him]” Luke 9:23.
That’s an incredible level of commitment, isn’t it?
Jesus made disciples by inviting others to follow Him and to go wherever He went, and then watch Him do whatever He did. They heard great teaching from Him and were “well fed.” But they also watched Him heal 1000’s and peacefully sleep in a boat in the midst of a raging sea. They saw how moved He was when Lazarus died, how zealous He was to cleanse the temple, and how delighted He was to have little children come to Him.
The disciples also saw how He wisely avoided the traps of the Pharisees and how He marveled at the faith of a Roman centurion. With all this careful observation, they also experienced from Him the impartation of miracle working power, so that they could go out and heal the sick and raise the dead just like Jesus did.
Where are the mentors today who will make disciples like Jesus did? I thank God for my mentor who invested in my life for years, teaching me Jesus’ Ways and showing me how to serve others with my gifts.
We see this level of commitment not only with Jesus and His disciples but also with Paul and Timothy, Elijah and Elisha, and even Moses and Joshua. The disciple was greatly committed to serve his mentor, and the mentor was greatly committed to teach God’s ways to the disciple. As a result, a spiritual legacy was both born and preserved. The knowledge of God’s ways continued on to the next generation and God’s Kingdom advanced.
We see how deep, how relational, this commitment should be. But, in practice, most people are discipled primarily by listening to a half hour message on Sunday morning. I guess somewhere along the line, we as a church got the idea that disciples could be made through the impartation of knowledge alone.
I know it’s a pricey investment to pour your life into someone else. I can see what my mentor sacrificed to pour himself into me.
But look at the rewards. The Apostle Paul recognized that his disciples were the fruit of his life of which he could boast at the coming of the Lord:
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 [ESV]
Paul knew that when he stood before the Lord he could boast, not of great buildings or programs, but disciples he made, who became men and women devoted to the Lord Jesus.
A good disciple is more than someone who attends church faithfully, tithes and stays out of moral trouble. A good disciple is one who becomes like his teacher. Ultimately our teacher is Jesus. Jesus did good and healed all who were oppressed by the devil. Should we not do likewise?
It is time to raise our expectations for our disciples. And it is time to raise our expectations for disciple-making. It is such a privilege to not only know our Savior, but to learn His ways. I encourage all of you who want to be good disciples, or disciple makers, to invest yourself in the process. In this way, we will all fulfill the Great Commission.
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