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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Heart Of Discipleship - Catherine Brown

Please enjoy the following article, extracted from “Love Your Neighbor – Transforming Your Community”, written by Catherine Brown, GGM Founder/Director & Co-Founder, Scottish Apostolic Networking Enterprise.   This is available as a free downloadable resource to all our GGM partners who have registered on line at  Please take time to visit Catherine’s website and read about her incredible ministry, Gatekeepers Global Ministries.

 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
 Ephesians 4:22-24

We might describe discipleship as the process of becoming a committed follower of Jesus Christ, with all the spiritual discipline and benefits which this brings. The purpose of discipleship is to become Christ-like, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.“ Ephesians 4:22-24 Discipleship involves commitment, learning, laying down our lives and loving God and others with a whole heart.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very ends of the age.” Matthew 29:18-20
 -     towards self – to become like Christ
-     towards others – servant hood
-     towards the world – fulfilling the Great Commission & the two great commandments

Jesus commissioned the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations - in other words to reproduce what Jesus had created in them.  We, the New Testament church, are entrusted with the same task of fulfilling the Great Commission until the return of Christ. We are to engage in discipleship on a personal level and to model discipleship to raise others up as disciples.

 As we go we are to carry the fragrance and presence of Jesus to the nations.  Jesus said, “I am with you always.” It is not in our own strength we go, or with any desire to spread our fame or reputation.  Our being sent out is to testify to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that many more may come into a living relationship with God. His presence changes everything and touches the lives of ordinary people, transforming them with the power of His love. Discipleship is about togetherness with God and flows from intimacy with Him.

 God called the people of Israel into eternal covenant with Him through Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17) and commanded them to obey His law (Exodus 20). Abraham was commended as a man of faith and stands as a type of patriarchal father.  Apostle Paul teaches us that all Abraham’s offspring i.e. those who are heirs by faith whether Jewish or Gentile, shall inherit the promise of eternal life in Christ. “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.” Romans 4:16 

In Christ, God initiated a new covenant by way of the Cross that fulfilled the law and moved mankind into an end-time dispensation of Grace. (Hebrews 9:15)  Jesus came in the role of Davidic Messiah to reconcile Jew and Gentile to God and to each other, making peace through His blood shed on the cross in an act of divine reconciliation, calling the church to be “one new man” in Him. Jesus is the ALREADY new man and in Him all believers are called to be in unity with one another and with God (see Ephesians 2).

Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we, the gentile church, are in-grafted to the olive branch that is the Jewish people (Romans 11). The Bible teaches us that the Gospel is first for the Jew (Romans 1:16).  Apostle Paul states that the hearts of the Jewish people have been hardened only for a time, so that the Gentiles might receive the gospel.  “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead.” (Romans 11:15)  The prophets of the Old Testament instruct us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)) and to the watchmen of nations the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob commands that we should “give him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her a praise of the earth”.(Isaiah 62:7). As we seek to make disciples of all nations, may we ever remember to pray for the salvation of the Jewish people to experience a revelation of Christ as Messiah. 

It is important to realize that in the light of the New Covenant, all people regardless of their ethnic origin (Jews and gentiles alike) can only receive salvation by grace through faith alone and that through the shed blood of Messiah. 

Discipleship begins when we enter into covenant relationship with God.  Jesus took the initiative and called twelve men to be His disciples with the words “follow me”. Jesus later designated these men as apostles.  Jesus is still calling people into relational discipleship with Him today. The nature of discipleship centers round a lifestyle of obedience and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. It is both a privilege and a joyous and costly walk of grace through which we enter by covenant relationship with God in Christ.

His call to us is a brand new beginning and means losing our old life and finding new life in the family of God through obeying the will of the Father. Calling constitutes the heart of the Biblical concept of covenant manifested in the promise,
 “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

 We learn from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit what it means to be a dedicated follower of Jesus.  (John 14:26)
We learn from Christ. The Lord Jesus said, “learn from me” Matthew 11:29
We learn from the Father “…everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me.” John 6:45 
We learn from the Holy Spirit, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 
Scriptures teach us of God’s ways, “Your word is a lamp to my feet.” Psalm 119:105
Other believers also help us to become Christ-like. Paul spoke to the believers at Philippi, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace be with you.” Philippians 4:9
Apostle Paul was a father in the faith to Timothy, Titus and a number of others.  As a spiritual father he prayed for them, mentored them and encouraged them daily to walk in obedience to Christ.

 Response to the call of discipleship involves recognition and belief in Jesus’ identity, it includes obedience to His summons’ as well as counting the cost of full allegiance to Him.  The cost of discipleship involves being willing to suffer and die for Jesus Christ’s sake (Matthew 10:38-39, 16:24-25).

The Twelve were called to leave family, profession, property and to daily deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Christ. This was part of their preparatory training for the future roles they would hold as pillars in the New Testament church. Other disciples such as Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus were not required to give up their jobs.

Discipleship requires us to lay down our self-interests and desires as we make a total commitment to the will of God; for some this will even be to the point of death by martyrdom. Self-denial is about living for God rather than living for oneself.  God is looking for total surrender from His disciples and to place Christ as a first priority in our lives. Discipleship is a continual, ongoing process of learning with and from the Master.

 “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every sickness and disease.” Matthew 10:1 

Jesus taught His disciples many things.  He educated them by:
His exemplary lifestyle of obedience & discipline to His Father’s perfect will
Servant hood and humility
His prayer life
His worshipful devotion to God
His honor of the Holy Spirit
His character, integrity and virtue
Revelation/prophetic utterance
Demonstration of ministry – equipping and empowering
Designation in ministry – authorizing and appointing
Impartation for ministry – anointing
Discipline and correction when required

Jesus taught by instructing His disciples how to do ministry.  “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions …” Matthew 10:5
“After Jesus finished instructing his 12 disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.” Matthew 11:1

Jesus gave His disciples orders.  “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake” Matthew 8:18

Jesus gave His disciples Commands.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus also taught by using parabolic language and then offering His disciples understanding of what He had shared. Jesus permitted His disciples to ask questions and then gave them a more in-depth explanation of His teaching. (Matthew13:16, 36, 15:15)

Joy, peace and happiness flow from our relationship with Jesus and our choice to follow Him.  We are filled with hope in our faith expectation to be made like Him and to be with Him in heaven.  The Holy Spirit transforms and conforms us to God’s image as we walk as disciples.

Blessings result from being an obedient disciple.  “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

Joy is a fruit of discipleship.  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11

Peace is an outflow of discipleship. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

True happiness results from discipleship because happiness flows from doing God’s will.  “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” Psalm 119:1-2

Discipleship is a blessing.  Matthew 5:3-12

Disciples are abundantly recompensed in this life and with eternal life.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30

Disciples are blessed by being united with Jesus Christ in the family of God.
“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50 (see also verses 46-49)

Disciples have the hope of being like Jesus Christ and being with Him in heaven.  “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  1 John 3:2

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