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The Nature of Christian Discipleship

posted 10 Nov 2010, 12:27 by Peter Booth   [ updated 29 Jan 2012, 11:15 ]
To start, here's a couple of favourite quotes to get you thinking:

"Nothing is more important for mature Christian discipleship than a fresh, clear, true vision of the authentic Jesus." - John Stott

"The key to continual spiritual renewal and survival, is the continual re-discovery of the gospel." - Tim Keller

Both of these things are true and needed as part of discipleship; to see the authentic Jesus and to be renewed each day by playing the gospel over in our heads like a broken record, only one which never loses its freshness from first hearing, hence why Keller emphasises the 're-discovery' and not simply 'repeating.' In so doing Keller says that "you need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home."

But what is discipleship? Is it just for a few people, maybe in their first couple of years after becoming a Christian? Is it for people who are 'struggling?' (Who isn't?) No it's for everyone, all of the time. We are all to be disciples and followers of Jesus. Consider the great commission in Matthew 28. What does Jesus say? "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and convert lots of people?" No, he says so much more. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." We are to go and make disciples; not just see people getting saved, but to make disciples, teaching them the word and commands of God. The word 'disciple' means above all 'learner' or 'pupil.' We are to hear and learn the word of Christ, the gospel, and have its incredible truths imprinted on our hearts by God's grace and through the Holy Spirit. We are to tell these incredible truths to others and establish mature disciples of Christ who are trained in knowledge and holiness and equipped to stand for him in whatever culture they live, so that they will in turn make disciples of others from every nation.

So we are to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, whilst all the time being a disciple ourselves, to the glory of God. What does that look like day to day? Well we considered a lot of things in the ID course and the ID extra studies afterwards, but one thing we should know and remember is that it is often costly, and not something we can do half-heartedly or be exempt from. In Mark 8 after Peter's confession of Jesus being "the Christ," Jesus warns them saying "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it." Being called by Jesus Christ and following him will be the best decision we ever make on this earth and it is the best decision we can make day to day in everything we do, but it will rarely be the easiest. Colin Marshall and Tony Payne help in expanding on what this might look like: "Disciple-making is a really useful word to summarise this radical call, because it encompasses both reaching out to non-Christians and encouraging fellow Christians to grow like Christ... Disciple-making, then, refers to a massive range of relationships and conversations and activities - everything from preaching a sermon to teaching a Sunday school class; from chatting over the proverbial back fence with a non-Christian neighbour to writing an encouraging note to a Christian friend; from inviting a family member to hear the gospel at a church event to meeting one-to-one to study the Bible with a fellow Christian; from reading the Bible to your children to making a Christian comment over morning tea at the office."

To conclude then, we are to be disciples and followers of Jesus Christ who seek to make other disciples, trusting in him and his word, that we may make decisions which are pleasing to him through giving our whole lives over to him and growing in Christian maturity. Since we started with the great Christian leader John Stott, lets end with him. "To be mature is to have a mature relationship with Christ in which we worship, trust, love and obey him."

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
   and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
   and he will make straight your paths."
[Proverbs 3:5-6]