Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The secret of being a disciple

The following article is a GREAT introduction to our Speak Freely series on prayer that's starting on Sunday. I thought is was so good, I posted the whole thing for you to read.

By Caleb C. Anderson

Want to help a new generation of men and women in your church grow more and more like Christ? The key to making disciples of the next generation doesn’t lie in following the latest trend or preaching the cleverest sermons. Instead the key to discipleship in the 21st century lies in a 2,000-year-old model.

If we are going to disciple a new generation, we must teach them how to be disciples. Most Christians I know aren’t really disciples. They don’t even claim to be disciples; they claim to be Christians. Nowhere in the book of Acts did a believer claim to be Christian – as if to brand their religious movement. No – they claimed only to be disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

That needs to be our claim today. The younger generations are desperate for raw, authentic spirituality – even if it’s more demanding. To reach them, we need to do more than deliver messages about Religion vs. Relationship; we need to model them.

The staying life of the disciple
Disciples do not discipline themselves for discipline’s sake – like an overzealous military man, or a masochist. If we discipline ourselves, it is for the sake of the Discipling One. It’s for the sake of the Great Teacher, the God-man, the Humble King, whom we follow, with whom we stay.

Too many of our churches continue to emphasize the “habits” necessary to spiritual growth as the exclusive means of growing in Christ. Prayer, Bible study, Scripture memorization, fasting, solitude and tithing are essential for growing Christians. These are foundational habits that every disciple embraces in one way, shape or form.

But they should never become an end unto themselves. Instead of listing these habits as prerequisites for discipleship, we should communicate that discipleship is fueled by ONE discipline, the discipline of staying. Once a disciple understands and begins to practice this one important discipline, the other habits will follow as paths to the ultimate goal – staying in communion with Christ.

Why did Jesus choose such average disciples?

I recently took my Jewish father-in-law to see The Passion of the Christ. When we walked out, he was fuming mad that Jesus had chosen such pathetic disciples. “Not one of them stood up for him!” Jerry exclaimed.

It’s true - Jesus’ disciples were average men, at best. Yet that was by design.

It was likely that those disciples had a good foundation of the Torah; it was not unusual for Jewish boys in their day to memorize large portions of Scripture. In their youth, they'd probably developed the habits of prayer, scripture memorization, religious dieting, etc.

But you don’t see Jesus speaking much to their Jewish regimen. You don’t see Jesus commenting much on their mastery of the Torah, or on their habits of choice. Do you know why? Jesus knew that the habits - and living life to the glory of God - were going to be the Holy Spirit’s job.

Just look at the apostles’ lives: they each left everything they had to come and follow Jesus. They stayed with Jesus all day, every day, unless he sent off them with some assignment. They didn’t do anything special during those three (or more) years. They just stayed with Jesus. That was the secret of their discipleship.

After the last supper, on their way to Gethsemane, Jesus gave his disciples explicit instructions - which they wouldn’t understand until later.

He said, "Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me." (John 15:4, CEV)

Can you imagine how devastated and confused the disciples were when Jesus was taken from them that very evening and killed the very next day? “He told us to stay with him - but the show must be over. The mission must’ve been thwarted. We can’t stay with him, or abide/remain in him, if he’s not here.”

So what did the disciples do? They panicked. Without the presence of Jesus, their learning, their hope, their new way of thinking, their new perspectives on life and God were all useless. They had nothing. Even after Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection for the first time in the upper room, Peter, James and John – Jesus’ main men – still didn’t understand the bigger plan, the bigger story. They went back to what they knew. They went fishing (John 21). When godly men are not staying connected to God they will slowly regress back to their old ways.

Finally, before Jesus ascended up into heaven, he looked at his disciples and said: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5, NIV)

Why was this instruction so critical? Have you noticed a trend with the disciples yet? Have you noticed a trend in your own life?

When the disciples are with Jesus, they have purpose. When the disciples obey Christ, they are blessed. When the disciples can communicate with him, they are content. And so when Jesus leaves, he doesn’t leave them alone. He sends his own Spirit to come and live in them and in us!

"To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27, NIV)

I am not the hope of glory; you are not the hope of glory; discipline is not the hope of glory. Christ in you is the hope of glory!

The living Spirit of the God of the universe, actively achieving his will in this world through the collective lives of his disciples – that’s the hope of glory. And we must dedicate our lives to allowing the Holy Spirit to have his way in us.

Living our lives according to the five purposes of God is going to continue to be the key to the church’s effectiveness in the next generation (the biblical purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions). Communicating those purposes in the simplest, clearest, most fundamental and relevant ways is going to be the key to a leader's effectiveness in the next generation.

As for the purpose of discipleship, it is a one-discipline purpose - staying connected to Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Make people passionate about that – about the power that resides inside of every saint – then teach them the value of the ancient habits that aid in staying connected.


At 11:19 AM, April 07, 2010 , Anonymous Jaimee said...

I love this post. Thanks for sharing it. It's amazing to me the lengths He goes to in order to get us back to (and continue to take us back to) that one truth. All the erasing and burning and pruning and breaking down that it takes to even be able to see discipleship for what it is.


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