I teach a discipleship course based upon the work of Bob Gordon in his books, The Foundations of Christian Living and Disciples of Jesus. The presentation notes I use for these courses are now available on my slideshare.net and scribd.com feeds.
I was listening to Ray Ortlund (pictured right) speak on “How to build a Gospel culture in your church,” it’s available from TGC, and the full notes can be read here.
In it Ortlund quotes the call to worship they use at his church in Nashville. This is it,
To all who are weary and need rest,
To all who mourn and long for comfort,
To all who feel worthless and wonder if God cares,
To all who fail and desire strength,
To all who sin and need a Savior,
This church opens wide her doors with a welcome from Jesus Christ,
the Ally of his enemies,
the Defender of the guilty,
the Justifier of the inexcusable,
the Friend of sinners.
It sounds like a church where you come needing a Saviour, I like that.
…make a disciple?
On the face of it that might seem like a stupid question. After all we have so many resources that teach us, tell us, how to do it. I might suggest that if those books and techniques were so good the job would be producing more Christlike men and women that i see at the moment.
How did Jesus make disciples? I have read the Gospels a few times and can recollect no mention of a manual or a technique. I know he knew the scriptures but can’t remember him telling any of the disciples to study or memorise them?
I appreciate Paul was a man of tremendous learning and intelligence. Was his apostolic role different to that of those who walked with Jesus?
If I were to model my disciple-making efforts upon Jesus, what would I do, what wouldn’t I do?
If I am to be a disciple in the manner that Jesus intended, what needs to change in the way I learn from him?
When reading the Bible often I am surprised by how I miss the obvious. Take Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV) which I read this morning.
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,“Truly you are the Son of God.”
At the moment I am reading the Gospels for the second time this year — I try to read them 2-3 times each year as I am rather on keen on knowing and understanding more about Jesus. Previously I had not noticed verse 32,
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased
I had worked on an idea of Jesus taking Peter’s hand and the wind stopped then. It appears to me that much of what is taught in discipleship classes, preached in sermons, seen on God tv, proclaims the idea that once the problem, difficulty, situation etc. is given to Jesus it stops being a problem.
Jesus seems to work differently here, the wind does not stop as soon as he takes hold of Peter’s hand. In effect he says, I will lift you up out of the mess and then walk with you whilst it still goes on around you.
A simple question occurred to me: Do I miss the presence of Jesus at times because I am waiting for the problem to be over not to simply be conscious of his presence with me in the midst of it?
I stand amazed at the dedication and determination of many people in this world who will subject their body to great stress and discipline in order to achieve a goal. Look at the video below and you will see their determination.
Christians, Christ followers, disciples, are called to the same level of discipline every day. Consider this section from Luke 9:20, 23-25
20 Then he [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”…23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
The way of the cross is the way of Jesus. Being a disciple we have to walk it not once but ever single day. Christ paid the price on the cross to enable you to do it. Walk with him.
Interestingly in the life of Jesus we see that the first leading of the Holy Spirit is into the desert to be tempted, Mark 1:12,13,
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
This does not mean that God tempts Jesus, James 1:3 which tells us that God doesn’t tempt anyone – yet he does allow situations, circumstances, other people and a variety of other sorces to bring temptation into our lives. Here in Mark 1:12,13 we see Satan tempting Jesus over a period of forty days (and probably in a variety of ways, mental, physical, spiritual), and at the same time God watches to see what the result will be.
Temptations also come through the power of our flesh and the accusation and opposition of Satan (Hebrew, adversary, one who resists) who often speaks into our minds.
Yet we should see that as we resist and stand firm in faith against temptations, that God wants to use them for good in our lives. In Disciples of Jesus Book 3 Bob Gordon suggests that trials and temptations can help to work the character of Jesus into our lives – here are a few reasons:
- They expose the depths of our maturity in God
- They show us the things we really value in life
- They show us our strengths ands weaknesses
- They develop spiritual perseverance
- They make us sensitive to the needs of others and teach us to empathise
- They make us rely on God more
- They can establish patterns for future decision making
Time to think
1. How do you respond to temptation?
2. Consider what lessons God might be trying to teach you in any current trials you face; What might he be trying to change in your life so that you look more like Jesus?
3. Think about the weak, easily tempted areas, in your physical body. Are there areas where you regularly fail?
4. Are there strongholds in your mind, areas where your thiking leads to defeat, e.g. in self pity, anger, bitterness?
5. Do you need to take positive action; pray and fast more, repent of sin and defeat, confess your sin to a spiritual elder in order to receive greater power to overcome?
In putting together these posts I often consult other books or websites. Occasionally I shall list some of them so that you can refer to the site for your own Bible study and information. Here are a couple used in this post:
https://www.biblegateway.com/ – a resource rich site that allows you to look at five parallel versions of a passage at one, invaluable.
I have called this series 5D because it is meant to take five minutes in which time we shall consider one simple aspect of being a disciple (5 minutes in Discipleship). I shall post 2-3 times each week and intend to follow Mark’s Gospel highlighting aspects of the example of Jesus that we can apply to our lives as his disciples.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son,whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
From this passage I wonder how you would describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit and Jesus? There are two obvious points to notice:
– The Spirit descended upon Jesus. The image suggests he was coming from heaven (in the Bible heaven is up)
– The Spirit sent him out. Was it an order, a command or a suggestion of the best way to move forward?
How would you describe your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Jesus makes it clear in John’s Gospel that it is his intention for every believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Jn 7:37-39,
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”By this he meant the Spirit,whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
If we are following Jesus, looking at him, copying him, then in just the same way that he was, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Time to think
1. Have you asked God our Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Lk 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
2. Do you know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? 2 Corinthians 13:14
3. Are you led by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life? “…the Spirit sent him out…”
Posche use the following slogan,
There is no substitute.
The same applies to Jesus.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes onJesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TM)
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Heb 3:1 (NIV)
In my early years as a disciple of Jesus Christ there was too little talk of him. He was there but in the background, lurking like a guest who was invited to the party but who didnt really seem to fit in. We talked of following him but not of knowing him, of serving him but not enjoying him, of his Lordship but not his friendship.
In this short series I want to walk through a few passages or comments in the Gospel of Mark and discuss some essential lessons of discipleship by looking at Jesus. I shall include other biblical references but my (our) primary focus and great desire is to gaze upon Jesus and see what I can learn from him.