Have you ever read a passage of Scripture in a way that you never had before? The reason for this is because the Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). This does not mean that the meaning changes, but as we spend time in Scripture our hearts and minds change and we are able to understand the things of God more clearly. It is an inexhaustible resource. This happened to me about fifteen years ago when I read this parable and it changed the way I thought about discipleship.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44
When I read this parable that day something clicked in my mind. I realized how great of a treasure that I had in Jesus. He really was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Because of that realization, I was willing to give up all that he wanted me to in order to follow him. Before I was going through life grateful that I had a Savior who died for me. I was willing to give and love and serve – but when I read that verse that day I realized that he was the greatest Good that could ever happen to me. When I realized how truly beautiful Jesus is my whole life was changed.
This idea of falling in love with Jesus and realizing his worth is where discipleship begins. When you gaze at him for who he really is you have no choice but to pursue him. You have to follow when his beauty is revealed.
What is a Disciple?
At its most basic level a disciple is a follower. However, a disciple is a follower for a very specific purpose. The purpose of following is so that the disciple becomes like the thing that they are following. Jesus said this in Luke’s gospel account.
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. – Luke 6:40
The goal of being a disciple of Jesus is to become like Jesus. In biblical times many people had disciples. John the Baptist did. What did his disciples do? They followed him, watched him, and patterned their lives after him. They did what he did. Jesus expects nothing less from his disciples.
You are a Disciple of Something
Everyone is a disciple of something whether they know it or not. Whatever you are pursuing after is what you are a disciple of. Whatever you value the most is what you pursue. So, whatever you value the most is what you begin to look like. For example, if you value money more than anything else you will pursue it over all other things. Eventually, you will have a heart that is full of greed. If you value your family more than anything else you will pursue it over all other things. Eventually, you will have a heart full of fear and worry over them.
Now, what if you valued Jesus over all other things? You wouldn’t look at money as something to hoard out of a greedy heart. You would look at it as a tool to use out of a generous heart. It would not control you. Your pursuit of Jesus would cause you to love your family in a healthy way instead of clinging on to them so tightly out of fear that you would lose them. We are to seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
When we see how beautiful Jesus is it causes two big changes in us. In Chasing Infinity, Mark Liederbach unpacks this idea when he writes that “a disciple is a person who places his or her faith in Jesus Christ and who joyfully disciplines his or her life through obedience to God’s commands in order to 1) become like Him in all facets of life and character (actions, attitudes, thoughts, desires, loves, purposes, etc) and 2) join him on his mission with his other disciples.” At Salem, we like to say that a disciple pursues Jesus and shares in His story.
What is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the on-going process all Christians are involved in as they become transformed into the image of Christ. This process never ends, even in heaven we will be pursuing Jesus in our glorified state. A verse that has been on my mind for the last several months speaks to the importance of discipleship.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18
All believers are on this journey of life that transforms us from one degree of glory to another. Everyone is at different places in this sanctification process. It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is who fuels this process. Because of this, God alone gets the glory in a person’s spiritual growth. It is him who is at work in and through us (Philippians 2:13). We get no credit, we are unworthy servants (Luke 17:10) who have been given this incredible gift through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of our mighty King Jesus. It is impossible to go with God while still staying where we are in terms of spiritual development. The way you move is by constantly pursuing Jesus and following the Holy Spirit.
Why the Blog?
Jesus has commanded us to make disciples.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
There are two main parts to making disciples – baptism (conversion) and teaching them to obey (discipleship). Historically, the church has put more emphasis on the former than the latter. We want to help our people learn to obey all that Jesus has commanded us so that we can truly be on mission with him. Conversion is not the great culmination of Christianity. Conversion is the beginning. When we don’t continue in obedience to King Jesus we miss out on the abundant life (John 10:10) that he has in store for us. We miss out on his mission and we miss out on being used to make more disciples. We are pursuing something else.
Christians do not grow by going through Bible studies (though those are helpful) or reading blog posts (so are these). Christians grow by doing what the Bible says (John 15:2). Our hope and prayer is that God would use this blog to help the people of Salem to see the glory of God, which will encourage them to pursue after our Good King Jesus and will end up with all of us sharing His story together.