Discipleship – Learning to Live for Christ
This is a summary of a message given by Bill Dyer of Pontefract, Yorkshire at the conference immediately following the annual assembly of the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, in Newtown on 15 May 2010.
1. A disciple is personally devoted to Jesus Christ. The religious authorities burdened people but learning from Jesus is a demanding privilege and passion. New converts have an insatiable appetite because their experience of Christ is so real. C.S. Lewis said we are too easily pleased.
2. Jesus teaches by example – e.g. foot washing. Christ-likeness is the ultimate goal which is holiness. Do you have a healthy appetite?
3. A disciple is a disciplined Christian. Self-discipline is essential for development. In the 1960s some 8-year-old children were offered marshmallows but told not to eat them while secretly being observed. 30 years later there was an incredible difference between the disciplined and undisciplined in every area of life and performance. The difference was observable early on in life. George Fox was ‘completely a master of self because he was a God-mastered man’.
4. Jesus uses the yoke in Matt 11 to describe discipleship. This means partnership. Jesus is the wiser and stronger and more experienced partner. But we need discipline to walk in step with him, to be a good husband, wife, father, mother, child, boss, worker, member of church and playing a consistent part in the church. Am I still enthusiastically yoked to Jesus?
5. Discipleship means heart knowledge as well as head knowledge. ‘That I may know him . . .’ (Phil. 3). ‘A quality of spiritual life to which most are strangers.’1 Much Christianity is formal & cerebral. There is a lack of spirituality. Seldom mentioned today. Moses saw the invisible. As with Moses we persevere because we too see the invisible. ‘We will come to him and make our home in him’ (John 14:23). Unbelievable intimacy Revelation 3:21. It takes less vigilance to maintain a sound creed than a warm heart.
We take as read the need to be faithful to God’s Word, but are we reacting to Pentecostal excesses? Doctrine has to be experienced before it takes hold of us. We are in danger of losing the reality of the Living God. The Bible takes the place of God.
6. Disciples do great exploits (Dan. 11:32). Are we carrying out great deeds? There is a disconnection between our belief in the Sovereign God which we’ve taught and preached, and our timid unadventurous faith today. Need a confident faith in God to be engaged in the culture of our day and world mission. Generally speaking we are over-cautious in engaging with a non-Christian culture. Yet the knowledge of his sovereignty should give us greater confidence in God.
7. Are we persevering in prayer? A lack of prayer is the most obvious lack in churches today. ‘Have you called upon God?’ ‘Not even had a pillow fight’. Surely the days in which we live demand more prayer. Let us not sin against him by failing to ask him to revive and renew us.
8. Are we sacrificial disciples? (Luke 9:23). Today we almost have to justify passion and hard work. It is seen as unhealthy, unbalanced and even as unspiritual. We cannot rewrite Jesus’ teaching. Yet at the same time our people are under more severe pressure at work.
1. All Christians should major on what we are before what we do. We should display Christ-likeness and moral integrity at work, e.g. Dan Walker on Sunday work. Be godly as a wife, husband. Sometimes extra pressures at work may mean we give people sabbaticals – time off all but the basic services – without being made to feel guilty. The church should pray for them.
2. Should some sacrifice jobs to serve the Lord? To live on one wage rather than two? Churches may have to give sacrificially in order to build team ministries and strengthen churches. The church must make use of those that are available. What about retired people? What are our ambitions in retirement?
3. Be flexible in church house groups. Spread them so that everyone is able to make one. Find ways of holding prayer meetings to cater to those unable to make the main church prayer meeting. We’ve got to be flexible to cater for as many as possible.
4. Making disciples.
The churches are responsible to make our people develop (Eph. 4:11-12, Col. 1:28). We must be proactive in training, developing and mentoring. We have a poor record of developing our people compared to the Pentecostals. Are we giving opportunities to grow, mature and reach one’s full potential according to Colossians 1:28? Instead of preaching twice, some ministers mentor 18 young men for leadership. We need a culture and mindset of developing people. Graduates ask potential employers ‘how will you develop and mature me?’ . . . in the service of Jesus. Shepherding the whole church is very challenging.
Build relationships – men need special activities like men’s breakfasts. Church leaders need to understand the men and their pressures. Lots of potential.
Prayer warriors – yet excluded from much of the decision-making process. Parenting classes among the unsaved, a ministry to the sick and unwell. For 25 years in one church a women taught other women how to develop their prayer life and to pray in public.
Developing older people
They are our largest mission field and so our biggest challenge. Our older Christians are best able to reach their own generation. Services and prayer times made available specifically for them.
Developing young people
The culture of developing our young people needs to be among the young people’s leaders. We must make room and opportunities to test them and prepare them for leadership. They shall be leading our churches in 20 years time against a far harsher clime of aggressive pressures if secularists have their way and Islam grows naturally by birth.
Many are so casual to spiritual things. Yet in wartime the effort touches everyone. And the casualties in this war lose their own souls. There are different priorities in wartime. Up to 1942 the Americans felt no personal involvement in the War. Something huge was required to change that and make grown men weep because they were refused fighting status. It was Pearl Harbour. That transformed apathy into a big effort that touched everyone and transformed car factories into weapon factories.
What is great enough to do that for us? The death and resurrection and eternal glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. His passion to save us – he stopped at nothing – it beggars belief. There is nothing more extreme and costly than his descent and embracing death on a cross. His love overcame insurmountable obstacles.
What are our priorities? Does that second holiday get converted into a gift for ministry to grow, as in wartime they were converted into troop carriers? The love of Christ compels us to sacrifice.
- Paul Cook, Fire from God.
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