Pursuing God’s Culture of Discipleship (Pt 2 The Gospel)

 “Let us always remember that Christ calls men and women not only to trust Him as Savior, but also to follow Him as Lord. That call to discipleship must be part of our message if we are to be faithful to Him.” Billy Graham

If we want to personally embrace, and help guide people towards Jesus’ call of discipleship, it must touch our identity.  We have to first see ourselves and our calling to both become and help make disciples.  If this identity isn’t in our foundation, any attempts at discipleship will become another dead religious work.  It will be going through motions without an inward Spiritual drive motivating them.  A dead work can be defined as doing religious things without real ongoing connection with, and direction from Christ.

Foundations are so important. The way people come into Christ and the church usually determine how they will walk once they are there. What are they committed to by being there? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? A. W. Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Biblical traits that will be found among people who are following Him as disciples.

  • Following Jesus and being led by the Spirit (Romans 8).
  • Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • Pursuing and exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2).
  • Living out the characteristics of Love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4).
  • Pursuing the Biblical practice “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14).
  • Engaging in His mission every day, everywhere, all the time as we are sent out by Jesus  (Jn 17:18, 20:21).
  • Continual pursuit of a Spirit filled life through which we make progress and move in His power (John 7:37:38, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Proper Foundations Begin With The Gospel

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective of what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).

 What are some of the incomplete versions of the gospel?

  • The prosperity and affluence gospel.  In this gospel, the right to prosperity and happiness IS the cause. The things of God exist for me to have the best life now in terms of personal dream fulfillment and an affluent lifestyle.  The great quest for our lives is to develop our faith in order to claim our rights to prosperity and affluence.  It produces an entitlement mentality and a subtle motivation of managing the things of God towards personal ends.
  • The forgiveness for heaven gospel.  This tends to foster a type of person that is much like the old vampire movies I watched as a young unbeliever.  People aren’t that concerned about a real relationship. Like the vampires, they just relate enough to get the effect of the blood in their lives.   Once they get the effect of His blood in them they want little more to do with Jesus until they get to heaven.  This tends to create Christians who are not disciples.  The message is “be forgiven.”  Following Christ is optional.
  • Liberal gospel of moral therapeutic deism.  Conversion is about improving the quality of your life by feeling better about yourself, doing good works, becoming a better person, working for justice, and helping needy people.  Absolute truth and clear standards are optional.  The goal is to have a better feeling about our life and its meaning.  In this gospel, instead of following Jesus and exhibiting the culture of heaven, there is more of an accommodation of the earth’s culture to stay relevant and appealing.
  • The consumer gospel.  God exists to fulfill our lives in a variety of areas and give us a sense of personal self-worth and fulfillment.  The church and religious programs are simple means to get what we need to make our dreams come true.  God is happy if we are happy. It promises to provide everything a person on the go needs: convenience, speed, sound-bite theology, and instant results.  Since impatience is the besetting sin in the west, the consumer gospel replaces the slow and difficult path of authentic spiritual maturity with methods and programs that give fast and easy results.  Our sins are taken off the table and the deeper life of discipleship is optional, something we can pursue if we have time.  This gospel creates people who become finicky consumers who shop for churches and programs that quickly and efficiently meet their needs. If they can find an easier or better one they go to that one.
  • The religious rightness gospel.  This gospel tends to prioritize correct doctrine, adherence to a narrow behavioral and moral code, and an exclusiveness of truth. The goal is that we become more right than everyone else so we feel better about our faith.  It forms a mentality that we are better than others, like the Pharisees.  Why, because we have THE truth.
  • The gospel of the Kingdom.  This is the Biblical gospel (Mt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Lk 16:16).  It is the proclamation of the loving rule and reign of Christ over all of life.  Through Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, death (bearing our sin and suffering God’s wrath for us in order to justify), and His resurrection triumph, we have the opportunity to live in Him.  We are accepted by God, set free from sin and wrath, and brought under the loving Lordship of Jesus.  This was the first message that the early church proclaimed, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:38-42).

As we confess Him as Lord and come under His loving rule we are delivered from the bondage and power of sin. As we believe, follow, and begin to obey (put into practice) His word, we are progressively set free from the damaging effects of sin and enjoy life in Him.  The entrance has always been the same. Jesus is the door (entrance) to the Kingdom (Jn 10:7-9).

As we continue to follow and obey, we continue to be set free  John 8:31-36 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…(36) who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus. 

Sin at its core is selfishness.  It is enthroning you, your desires, your needs, and your plans, then worshipping them.  Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus.  It becomes believing without following.  It is comfortable, convenient, and me-centric.  It becomes more about Him following us to fulfill our desires rather than us following Him in order to fulfill His desires.  This is not the gospel.  This type of gospel will not have the effect of people following Him, being truly set free, and living for His sake.

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God’s People Pursuing A Culture of Discipleship (Pt 1)

Discipleship isn’t learning more information about Jesus. It is knowing and following Him in the context of His people as we progressively put His commandments into practice while pursuing His mission.

John 15:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Many churches and leaders believe that they are succeeding if they can produce a Sunday morning service which both appeals to people and motivates them to attend. What about the people who sit in the audience week after week? What about their ongoing motivation in following Jesus and maturing? Meeting attendees are often left to themselves when it comes to following Jesus, growth, and maturity.

The things we experience on Sunday morning should produce a change on Monday Morning.

There is often little motivation in the cultural atmosphere of the church for people to go forward and make progress. For those serious enough to want to go further there are Bible studies and various other groups provided for “discipleship,” but what about the motivational atmosphere in the church culture? Is there an atmosphere that motivates people to follow Jesus, put His words into practice, and live as a family of disciples on His mission?

Having quality Sunday morning services are important but those gatherings can never take the place of people walking together in real everyday life following Jesus, and helping each other put His words into practice while pursing His mission. This is essential to becoming and making disciples who progressing towards maturity (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19).

Gods people are not called to merely attend services. They are called to follow Jesus They are called to become and help make disciples.  Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you.

This was how the early Christians lived. So much so that they were labeled disciples way more than Christians. Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The designation of “disciple” was used 269 times in the New Testament while the designation “Christian” was used only 3 times (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1Pet 4:16)

What does the term “disciple” mean? According to Bible dictionaries, a disciple is “a follower, learner, and an adherent.” The Biblical idea is increasingly loving, following, and obeying Jesus in all areas of life.  We are called to both become and help others become disciples who follow Him and put his words into practice.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

What would it be like if we had a church culture where becoming and making disciples was a natural part of what everyone did? What if discipleship wasn’t just a program or strategic plan but a culture involving shared values, language, vision, and a common life centered around helping people walk as disciples of Jesus.

We need to be intentional and have a passion for becoming and making disciples. We need a Spiritual inward drive and a cultural motivation in the church to see God’s people live as a relational family of disciples walking together on God’s mission. It is a culture where every person is involved in the process of helping each other as God’s family on God’s mission.

Cultural change starts with the gospel we embrace and proclaim.

The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk. What are they committed to by being there? What participation do they exhibit that leads to what the Bible considers growth and maturity? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? AW Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Are these Biblical traits of maturity being developed among God’s people?

  • Are people following Jesus, being led by the Spirit (Romans 8)?
  • Are people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)?
  • Are people exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2)?
  • Are people actually taking on the character of love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4)?
  • Are people pursuing “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14)?
  • Are people engaging His mission as they are sent out every day, everywhere, all the time (Jn 17:18, 20:21)?

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective on what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).  More next time.

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