Discipleship 201 #1 – The Marks of a Disciple

These are my teaching notes of yesterday evening.

Back in March I gave a teaching called “Discipleship 101” where I tried to provide a definition for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The teaching notes for this can be found here:

In summary, a disciple of Jesus can be defined in the following five points:

  • A disciple is a reborn follower of Jesus (Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 8:18-22; Jn. 10:27);
  • A disciple submits to at least one other person who teaches him how to follow Jesus (1 Pet. 5:5; 2 Tim. 3:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 4:15-16; Eph. 5:21);
  • A disciple learns Jesus’ words (Jn. 18:31-32; Ps. 19:7-8; Ps. 1:1-3; Ps. 119:11);
  • A disciple imitates Jesus’ life and character (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Tim. 4:7; Gal. 5:22-23,25; Lu. 14:25-27,33);
  • A disciple finds and teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 9:36-38);

This teaching can be considered the follow-up, Discipleship 201, and discusses the transformational aspects (or marks) of when you imitate Jesus’ life and character.

Beholding the Glory of the Lord
According to John 15, we need to be abiding in Jesus, in order to bear fruit, we so we can become like Him, be transformed in His image. Since we are in Christ, we have a new regenerated heart from which we can live, with the help of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says it like this: “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 the Spirit.

I think there are three questions that Paul wants to answer for us here:

How are we being transformed? – “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord
We are transformed into His image by looking at His glory. How do we get an unveiled face? Paul tells us two verses earlier: “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16). You become what you constantly behold. It is about fixing our gaze on Him, look at Him, think about Him, and put Him before us again and again. This is key to becoming like Him.

To what are we being transformed? – “transformed into His image
As we look into God’s mirror, we will be changed into the same image of the Lord. When we spend time beholding the glory of the God of love, grace, peace, and righteousness, we will see a transforming growth in love, grace, peace, and righteousness. We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ.

Who is doing the transforming? – “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit
With these last words, Paul is emphasizing two things. First, this access to God and His transforming presence is ours by the new covenant, because it is through the new covenant we are given the Spirit of the Lord. Secondly, this work of transformation really is God’s work in us. It happens by the Spirit of the Lord, not by the will or effort of man. We don’t achieve or earn spiritual transformation by beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We simply put ourselves in a place where we can be transformed by the Spirit of the Lord.

So if we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus, what is it that will be transformed:

  1. Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
  2. Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
  3. Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
  4. Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
  5. Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
  6. Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led

Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
We need to be transformed to have the same mind as Jesus. Believe what He believes. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus. It’s quite another to believe what Jesus believed. And the first cannot be what it should be without the second. The key verse here is Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The world (in other words, the popular culture and manner of thinking which is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to their pattern, yet we need to resist this process. Renewing the mind has not as much to do feeling nor with doing. A life based on feelings says: “How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?” A life based on doing says: “Don’t give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that.” It is not that God is against either feeling or doing, but rather we should ask “What is true here? What does God’s Word say?” It also not necessarily mean to get more knowledge (or better knowledge), for Ephesians 4:23 says that we should “be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” but it is the ability to set our mind on the right things.

Some more verses for personal study on the mind: Psalm 26:2; Proverbs 28:26; Matthew 16:23; Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:2, 4:7; Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 3:8.

Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
We need to be transformed to have the same character as Jesus. Character being defined best in this case as maturity. The key verse here is Romans 5:3-4, which says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” From suffering to endurance to character to hope. This is sort of a golden chain of Christian growth and maturity. One virtue builds upon another as we grow in the pattern of Jesus. We build character through endurance (or perseverance) which comes through suffering (or trial). James says it like this: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). When it comes to daily worldly opposition trials fall under the three categories of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (2 John 2:16). And if you think this is a new thing, consider that these three were exactly what caused Eve to sin in the garden. We read in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [boastful pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Some more verses for personal study on character: Matthew 4:1-11

Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
We need to be transformed to show the same type of love in our relationships as Jesus did. The key verse here is John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Greek word for new (kainos) here implies freshness rather than recent or different. It’s for instance also used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation“). It’s not that Jesus just invented this command, but that He presents it in a new and fresh way. So what’s so fresh about it? Whereas the Old Testament demanded that men should love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18), the New Commandment is that they should love the brothers better than themselves, and die for their friends. The command to love wasn’t new, but the extent of love just displayed by Jesus was new, as would be the display of the cross. Love was newly defined from His example.

Some more verses for personal study on love: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:3-4; Jude 1:17-21

Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
We need to be transformed to incorporate the same habits as Jesus. The key verse here is Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Training is not trying. We must not try, but train. Training means that we commit to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus. We don’t try to practice spiritual disciplines, but we train ourselves to implement them into our lives because Jesus did. And over time, through a patient process, we allow the positive effects of discipline to change us. We need to train hard, be disciplined, so that we will be perfected in unity with Jesus Christ (John 17:23), perfected in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), perfected in patience (1 Timothy 1:16), perfected in faith (James 2:22), perfected in love (1 John 4:12). We get encouragement for training and discipline by reading Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Some more verses for personal study on training: Proverbs 22:6; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
We need to be transformed to have the same servant heart as Jesus had. The key verse here is Galatians 5:13-14: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Clearly, we can choose to use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. That option (or danger) is open to us. We can take the glorious freedom Jesus has given us, spin it, and use it as a way to please ourselves at the expense of others. This is the antidote for using freedom as an occasion for the flesh. The flesh expects others to conform to us, and doesn’t care much about others. But when we through love serve one another, we conquer the flesh. This is exactly the pattern set by Jesus. He had more freedom than anyone who ever walked this earth did. Yet He used His liberty to through love serve one another. The idea is that as we naturally take care of ourselves, we should also take care of others.

Some verses for personal study on serving: Matthew 6:24; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:24-27; John 12:26; Romans 12:11; Romans 14:18; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 4:10, Titus 3:14

Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led
We need to be transformed to have the same influence as Jesus had. The key verse here is Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Disciples are like salt because they have a preserving influence. Salt was used to preserve meats and to slow decay. Disciples are like salt because they add flavor. Christians should have a preserving and flavorful influence on their culture. We are not only light-receivers, we are also light-givers. Jesus never challenged us to become salt or light. He simply said that we are – and we are either fulfilling or failing that given responsibility. The world will see the light of the kingdom through the good works done by Jesus’ disciples (and believers today), with the result that the Father who is in heaven will be glorified.

Some more verses for personal study on influence: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 26:9-23; Philippians 2:5; Acts 4:5-13

Discipleship 101 #4 – New School

So, what does this all mean for us in our daily lives? What is it that a disciple of Jesus does? Let me list five things a disciple of Jesus does.

A disciple is a Reborn Follower of Jesus
There is no distinction between being a Christian and being a disciple. Christian means “belonging to Christ” and thus that Jesus Christ is your Master, your Rabbi, which means that you are His disciple, and thus follow Him. Now, here we could go into all sorts of discussions of belonging to Christ means justification, and that those who are being justified also will be glorified (Romans 8:30), so that no sanctification or following is required of a Christian/disciple/follower of Christ, for you will be glorified anyways. But regardless of the fact that this is true, this doesn’t take away the fact that Jesus Christ demands a lot from a Christian, which (if He is your Master, because you are His follower) must be obeyed. For those interested to find out what Jesus exactly demands from a Christian (and the world), a good book to read would be John Piper’s “What Jesus Demands from the World” which lists 50 demands from Jesus. Like I said in my first post, in the old Jewish tradition, the relationship between a disciple and his teacher is one of complete loyalty, dedication and submission. In Matthew 4:18-20 we read about the immediacy of following Jesus where it says, “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” And in Matthew 8:18-22, Jesus tells us what it means to follow Him, “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” But I think John’s writing is the most clear when he wrote, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

A disciple Submits to At Least One Other Person Who Teaches Him How to Follow Jesus
Character develops in community, but in order for character to develop it requires something. It requires submission. You need to be willing to submit to someone and letting that person speak into your life, and this requires humility (“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5). So, humility leads to submission leads to character development (which means transformation into Christ-likeness). Humility is a starting point, not an end goal (see my post “Good Works Versus Humility” for more insights). The Apostle Paul in particular points this out in several of his writings. He says to Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me” (2 Timothy 3:10-11), and “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). And Paul says to the Corinthians, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). And we read in Ephesians 5:21 to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Being a disciple means to be a servant, and in this case it is a servant/servant relationship towards each other.

A disciple Learns Jesus’ Words
On this point obviously much can be said. Like the old Jewish disciple had an oral tradition which required them to memorize everything their rabbi said (and often meant memorizing the whole Law (the Torah or the Pentateuch or the five books of Moses) and much of the Prophets), so we should learn Jesus’ words. This should not be taken lightly at all. We should know Scripture by heart. It should ooze out of us, ready to be used “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should have Jesus’ words ready in our heart for all circumstances, which means next to the aforementioned verse also for defending and confirming the gospel (Philippians 1:7) and for fighting the devil (Ephesians 6:11-17), which includes the Word of God being a sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). I like what Donald S. Whitney says in his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” when talking about Scripture memorization, where he explains the Word of God being a sword to be used. He says that if you need to defend yourself and you take out your sword, that knowing only Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16 will not be sufficient to defend yourself in most situations. (This obviously does not mean that we should turn the Word of God into a list of handy verses to be used for different situations!).

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32). We need to abide in His Word if we are truly are His disciples. Why? Because we will know the truth! But there are more reasons, and the Psalmist says it quite beautifully. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8), and “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-3), and “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11). So, the Word of God is perfect, it revives the soul, it makes wise the simple, it rejoices the heart, it enlightens the eyes, and it keeps you from sinning. In other words, it is life-giving!

A Disciple Imitates Jesus’ life and Character
This could actually be the most important one, although this should flow naturally out of submitting yourself to Jesus. Yet, this is a thing that many times is skipped in the process of being a Christian. Imitating Jesus’ life and character means sanctification, means spiritual formation, and means transformation into the image of Christ. “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 the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It means that we should “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).

Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of humility, for “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of sacrifice, for “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of submission, for “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of obedience, for “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) and “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:29). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of persecution, for “indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

A Disciple Finds and Teaches Other Disciples Who Also Follow Jesus
Jesus spent three years teaching and training the apostles, and when He left He told them in Matthew 28:19-20 to “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.” The Great Commission is the normal job of a disciple: to raise up more disciples, and we could say that the Christian faith has done a pretty good job in ‘going’ and ‘baptizing,’ but that unfortunately the ‘making disciples’ and ‘teaching them’ could be described as the Great Omission. Something Dallas Willard wrote a whole book about. With the great commission transformation became mission. It reveals Jesus’ heart and priority. It launches a rescue mission. All followers receive orders to take action: “When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38). When all who become disciples make disciples, the result is not reproduction (adding one disciple at a time), but multiplication (one become two, becomes four, etc)

These are the things that Jesus demands from His disciples.

In Between

In between Christmas and New Year’s Eve
In between my first and possible second attempt of passing CCIE
In between my current job and my possible next
In between studying Jesus and studying CCIE
In between sanctifying the workplace and leaving it as it is
In between getting healthy and enjoy
In between kiss and make up
In between moving and staying
In between rental and buy
In between doing less and having to do more
In between having one and wanting another
In between a girl and hopefully a boy
In between chaos and structure
In between convincing and letting go
In between know-it-all and humility
In between remember and forget
In between hard hearts and hard words
In between conviction and repentance
In between dependency and hitting snooze

I don’t like being in between. It makes me uneasy. It does not feel like me. I am structured. I am a goal setter. I know what I want. Yet most of the time I seem to be an inch short of achieving my goal. Sometimes even more than a foot. This is not me. I think being between conviction and repentance is my most predominant and urgent state I am in. I feel I am losing myself for the sake of Jesus (which is exactly what He said needs to happen), but I am not sure yet what the new identity is like. I know it must be good, but I feel hesitant to embrace it, holding on too tight to things I should have let go already or never should have hold on to in the first place. Maybe I am just being silly, for I am a sucker for new beginnings and long with all my might for the new year (usually to get disappointed by it relatively soon after that).

I know this post will probably not make any sense to most if not all who read it, but I felt the need to publish it anyway… I guess what I am trying to say is that I need to get things in order and make some pretty big and definite decisions soon, and I don’t think I feel spiritually prepared for it. I am in between.

Bibliology #4 – Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture answers the question if we are to look for other words from God in addition to those we have in Scripture, or is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do? The definition can be described that Scripture contained all the Words of God He intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.

Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 3:15 that “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to be saved.

David says in Psalm 9:10 that “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those you seek You,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to trust Him.

In Jeremiah 7:23 it is said that “this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it will may be well with you’,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to obey Him.

The sufficiency of Scripture implies that God has not spoken to mankind any more words which He requires us to believe or obey other than those which we have now in the Bible. It does not imply that God cannot add any more words to those He has already spoken to His people. It rather implies that man cannot add on his own initiative any words that God has already spoken (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19). Practically it should encourage us as we try to discover what God would have us to think or to do. We should be encouraged that everything God wants to tell us about for our salvation, trust and obedience is to be found in Scripture. This doesn’t mean that the Bible answers all questions that we might think up, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). It does mean that when we are facing a problem of genuine importance to our Christian life, we can approach Scripture with the confidence that from it God will provide us with guidance for that problem.

Summary and Conclusion
What then can we say in summary? It ultimately comes down to a desire for wisdom, for “the beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7), and a step of faith “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). We must not forget the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in overcoming the effects of our fallen condition, and to give us revelation of the truth of the Bible. We have in the Bible God’s very words, and we must not try to improve on them in some way, for this cannot be done. Rather, we should seek to understand, approach them with an open and humble heart and mind, and then trust them and obey them with our whole heart.

Does Bibliology help you in your understanding of the Bible? In other words, to what extent does the Bible have authority in your life? Do you feel encouraged that Scripture is meant to be understood by all, although sometimes it takes effort? Does understanding the necessity of Scripture stir you to more study of it? Do you feel that the Bible provides sufficient answers for your life? If not, is that because of a lack of understanding, of trust or of obedience? How does this help you in sharing your faith with non-believers? All these questions are so relevant to our every day life that I think it is sometimes good to understand the theory (doctrine) behind these things so that we can be more focused and determined in our efforts.

Baptism #6 – Why Be Baptized?

Our study on baptism is progressing. We have talked about the old traditions of the Jewish mikvah, the baptism of John the Baptist, why Jesus had to be baptized, how we should baptize, and why we should baptize. The logical following question is, if not evident yet by what has been said, why you should be baptized. Again, to be clear, baptism is not going to grant you salvation, for that is by grace alone, but the Bible is pretty clear that you should be baptized.

To make it short and sweet, there are (at least) five reasons why you should be baptized. First, to follow the example set by Jesus. The Gospel of Mark tells us that “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9). Secondly, Jesus Himself commanded it to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). We should not only follow in the footsteps of Jesus, follow His example, but we should also be obedient to His commands. The command given here in Matthew 28:19 is for followers of Jesus to baptize. It goes without saying that the obedience also applies to the person who has not been baptized. Thirdly, like I said, it openly demonstrates our obedience to Jesus Christ. In Luke 6:46 Jesus says ”Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” If we do not follow Jesus there is not much sense calling Him Lord, for He then does not reign over you. Fourthly, by getting baptized you publicly demonstrate that you are really a believer. A great statement of faith I would say to both the (local) body of believers and the non-believing people present (in the form of family and friends). I think we should not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of the non-believers through such an event! Lastly, it’s an external sign or act of entering into the new covenant with Jesus. The conditions to enter into this covenant are faith in Jesus and the subsequent repentance of sin. Faith in Jesus is therefore the internal sign of the covenant. Both baptism and communion are external signs or acts of entering into this covenant, and thus should only be performed if you have first internally entered into this covenant.