For the last two weeks we began looking at what authentic discipleship looks like. In this final installment I want us to focus on a key passage that often gets more attention in one area than in its complete form. First item that needs to be addressed is what the right perceptive should be for a believer to have about discipleship? The start of this conversation begins with Matthew 28:16-20:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus’ disciples were commanded to meet Him on a mountain top. An interesting observance in this passage is that when Jesus made his appearance, some worshipped and others doubt. This sheds some light on what the right perspective of discipleship is. Jesus commands His followers to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all that has been commanded. He reassured them that He will be with them until the very end.
The first thing that can be gleaned from this passage is
Jesus had the authority to give the responsibility of disciple making to those that followed Him. Since the disciples committed their life to follow Him, they gave Jesus ultimate authority over them. That doesn’t mean the disciple did not make any mistakes. What it does mean is that they recognized that Jesus is Lord and to be his disciple mean following His authority. One sign of knowing if a believer is allowing God to be his or her ultimate authority is through worship. Is the believer living a surrendered life before God? The disciple’s response to the appearance of Jesus on the mountain top gives some insight to the importance of worship. The disciples worshipped Him at His appearance but scripture also points out that some doubted. Doubt plays a huge role in the authority of God over the believer’s life. If a Christian doubts, discipleship will suffer. Trust in God will be hindered. Last, the work of disciple-making will not take place.
Second, Jesus instructed the disciples exactly how to make disciples. Jesus starts with the big picture of what is expected from His followers. He said that the disciples are to go and make other disciples. Revisiting Matthew 4 from part 1, Jesus is reminding them of how they were called to be disciples. It’s not a temporary job. It’s a life style that is to be lived out throughout the earthly life of the individual. Jesus begins to bring in a narrower understanding of the “big picture” by instructing the disciples to baptize new followers. Throughout scripture, baptism is a response to someone surrendering his or her life to Christ. It’s the first step of obedience for a believer. This indicates that evangelism is just part of the process of making disciples. It’s not the only process. Sometimes, evangelicals stop at the evangelism part of making disciples. This can be a fatal mistake for the universal church. This can cause a stunt in the growth of a new believer. Worst case scenario, it can cause a false sense of security for someone who has never surrendered.
Jesus had one-on-one time with each disciple. He gave this model to for us to follow. In teaching “to obey everything,” a personal and individual discipleship must take place. Jeff saw this as a necessity in the life of his ministry. Therefore, I learned from him and do the same in my ministry. It all points back to what Jesus commanded us to do.
Third and last, Jesus continues to disciple His disciples. This is very evident and clear when He declared “I am with you always.” In addition, He gave us His word in the form of the New Testament. If we model what Jesus did then we have to assume that discipleship is a long-term commitment. It cannot be accomplished is a six-week study nor will a weekly class fulfill the need for discipleship. These things can be a great launching pad for continuing discipleship but there has to be an intentional relationship formed that last. This is the hardest part of discipleship. This is where you get into someone’s business. This is sometimes scary, dirty, and painful but that’s part of doing life together. Jesus never said it would be easy. He did say that He will be with us which means He will get in our business which is scary, dirty, and painful at times.
We have a charge that is great. God’s plan is for disciples to make disciples who make disciples who continue to be discipled. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle but it is an obedient, rewarding lifestyle. My question is who’s discipling you and who are you discipling?