“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Going AND making disciples
One of the most common passages in all the Bible, Matthew 28:18-20, is often emphasized in a way that we can lose track of the command Jesus is giving. Often, the emphasis in this passage is placed on the “going.” And don’t get me wrong, the going is absolutely necessary and characteristic of Christianity. We “go” to the world to share the gospel with the lost. But sometimes we can get so focused on the “going” aspect, we can lose sight of the “making disciples” aspect.
This command to make disciples should not simply be understood as preaching the gospel so that we have more converts. Jesus clarifies what these disciples look like based on the way He qualifies how we should make disciples.
Questions to ask
What kind of disciples are we to make? Ones that follow Christ and observe all that Jesus commanded. How do we know what Jesus has commanded? We search the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. Why do we search the scriptures? It is how God has given us revelatory knowledge so that we, the finite, may know the infinite God
Discipleship is about helping people know God – not in a relationship of condemnation that all humanity is born into. I’m talking about a relationship founded upon the grace of God in which our sin has been dealt with by Christ’s perfect sacrifice. His righteousness is given to us so that we may be adopted as children of God. We cannot worship the God of the universe if we don’t know Him as He has revealed himself in scripture. If how we’re approaching Him in our prayers, singing to Him in our worship, and viewing Him in how we live is being shaped only by how we wish to view God and not by the scriptures, we are just as guilty as the Mormon, the Atheist, the Muslim, or Jehovah’s Witness in worshipping a false God; a god that is made in our own image.
The importance of real discipleship
This is why discipleship is such an important aspect of the Christian life. It’s purpose is so that we, and those we interact with, may know God – the authoritative, infinite, ruler of all creation – through Jesus Christ whom He has sent, by the means of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating and sanctifying work on our hearts, for the end goal of worshipping God for all eternity. And what greater an endeavor can there be for the children of God than knowing Him so that we can worship him rightly and can bring others along with us? Discipleship cannot be comprehensively experienced by a program, system, or by an abundance of coffee dates. It is a lifelong state of the Christian life, empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit – a continual dying to self and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that He may be made known to all of creation.
As incredible and high of an endeavor as this is, I want to warn you. Discipleship is not easy – it is sufferingly costly. All I need to do is mention the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was executed in Nazi Germany for refusing to bend a knee to the apostate, false Christianity of German nationalism, to make that point understood. We cannot look at discipleship through a rosy-eyed lens that depicts it as a first-class ticket on our way to holiness. To do so would not only be dishonest, but potentially damning. Discipleship is a matter of life and death. This isn’t simply something you can add on to your life as though you were putting avocado on top of your toast (apparently millennials, such as myself, do that). We are talking, very literally, about the state of eternal destinies. Are we in Christ or in darkness? A slave to our sin or set free from it? Under grace or under the just wrath of God for our sin? How we understand being a disciple of Christ has eternal significance.
You and discipleship at Northstar
So maybe you’re reading this and are considering taking part in a discipleship group with Northstar. You likely have a plethora of questions going through your mind. Do I have the time? Is this the best use of my time? Will it be beneficial? Who will watch my kids? Can or should I bring my kid(s)? Can I commit to this? And the list goes on. So why should you consider taking part in the discipleship initiative by joining a group? In short, it is a tangible way that you can rightly order your desires so that everything in your life may be subordinate to your love for Christ.
Now I want to clear, there is a distinction between discipleship and being a part of the Discipleship Initiative. The former is an encompassing reality of what it means to be a Christian, while the latter is a tangible opportunity to take a step of faith, trusting that God will use men or woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to help you grow as you study the scriptures and pray together. Although they are not the same, neither are they mutually exclusive. The former is made up of small steps of faith like the latter. Making small, ordinary decisions to gather together with others to study the scriptures, hear the Word preached, and pray is how God has built his church over the last two millennia. But in order to understand why I think it would be beneficial for you to take a part in a discipleship group, in the next post, we will look at some passages in scripture that will (hopefully) help you understand the lens through which these thoughts are founded.
In the meantime, embrace the importance of following Jesus – intimately and humbly. Embrace the joy of helping lead others to become disciples of Jesus. He is worthy!
In the next post:
“Jesus would fail every evangelism course today.”