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Archive for October 5th, 2019

The Making of a Disciple : An Overview

Return to Jerusalem

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?”  (Jn.14:26-28)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I think it is very important that we have a clear understanding of what it means to be a “Disciple of Jesus Christ”. It is important, because it is in God’s purpose that all believers in Christ be aware of and understand, His call to enter into a discipleship relationship in Jesus His Son.  In order to do so I believe that we must first understand what Jesus meant when He used the term “disciple”. I say this because if we really feel called to a true discipleship relationship with Jesus, that is where we have to start.

In general, the term “to be a disciple” meant and still means is to submit to being taught through a specific discipline. In Aramaic, it referred to the training/discipline you receive as an apprentice, where you learn by observing and doing what your master/teacher does.

What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

All Christian believers are expected to be “disciples” in that our lives should model the Love that motivated Jesus in every respect.  If practiced according to New Testament scripture, it is not based on our effort to be good and loving, but the process whereby the Holy Spirit works in us to “conform us to the image of Christ” (Rom.8:29) so that our becoming is the result of His indwelling presence in us. It is a process that begins when we yoke ourselves to Christ so that He can do the Father’s works through us! But it requires a decision on our part, a decision beyond accepting the free gift of salvation in Jesus as savior.

Discipleship involves a Transformation

The Holy Spirit can only begin His work in us to conform us to the image of Christ, when we explicitly and freely yield to Him for that purpose. This decision involving the giving of ourselves for this purpose is very emphatically stated in Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

Seek the Spirtual Renewal of Our Minds

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

God uses our offering of ourselves, through LOVE, to mold us in to the image of Christ so that that point on in our lives, the Spirit of Jesus will be manifested in us and though us! This is what is meant when Paul states: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom:8-29)

Now, we know from the Gospels that Jesus said He never did anything of His own will but according to the will of the Father, He also said that He only did what He saw the Father doing and said what the Father told Him to say. If he healed the sick and cast out demons, it was because He was accomplishing the Father’s purposes for Him in His ministry to others.

Discipleship Entails Carrying Our Cross Daily

So too, if we are being conformed to Jesus, the process will involve being His apprentices (disciples) and yielding ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit so He can work in us and through us in doing nothing but what the Father wants us to do in fulfilling His purposes for us. In doing so we have to follow Him in the Spirit, die to our own self-will, carrying our cross of self-denial daily in order to truly be a disciple of Jesus, in the way that Jesus used the term.

We enter this level of discipleship only when we willingly, out of Love, offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Rom.12:1), emptying ourselves of our own self-will so that He may Increase in us as His Will is done through us! The purpose of a disciple, then, is not so much “bringing people to Christ” but rather “bringing Christ to people” by letting His Kingdom of Love manifest through our obedience to His Call.

Many are Called but Few are Chosen

I think we are all aware that in today’s world, we apply the term “disciple” or “discipleship” in a much looser framework. Many Christians use the term in alluding to their service in the church. We use this term to describe the time we give to ministry,   even when we are usually serving our own ambitions by doing religious work for Him rather than listening and doing what He really wants to do through us.

Others, like myself use the term “disciple” as a synonym to “believer” (although I have now, personally, relented from doing so). Even in the New testament, apart from Jesus’ declarations, we see the term used with a variety of connotations in reference to believers. For instance Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are referred to as “disciples” in John’s Gospel, even though they did not actually  follow Jesus and did not declare themselves openly because “they were afraid of the Jews”.

I point this out because I just want to make it clear that the term “discipleship” that will be under discussion in this posting is with regard to what Jesus originally meant by the term, not what it later came to mean. The scripture quoted in the header is an example of what Jesus meant by a “disciple”.

The first hurdle we have to cross in coming to a clear understanding is that, while all disciples are believers, not all believers are disciples. A believer receives the free gift of salvation and reconciliation with the Father at the cost of Jesus’ giving of His life for us when he/she accepts Jesus as their personal Savior and repents of their sins in a sincere conversion and subsequent baptism. However, although the new believer also receives a calling to be a disciple of Christ as part of the graces at baptism, not all believers respond to the call to discipleship – essentially, to yield to the Holy Spirit to conform us to Christ and be yoked to Him so as to be His partners in bringing forth the Kingdom.

All believers are called to discipleship but not all, for a variety of reasons, respond to the call. The main reason being, that we are not taught clearly about what discipleship really entails and so we mainly follow traditional thinking that the call to discipleship is merely the call to full time ministry, which is not the case at all, it is a call to yield full control of our lives to Jesus so that HE may continue HIS service to humanity through us!

Discipleship is a Life Consecrated to Jesus

Besides receiving their calling as adopted sons of the Father,  all Christians are also called to be disciples. However accepting this call is left as a free choice to every believer.  To be a disciple is not compulsory to receiving salvation or adoption as children of God.

It is a free choice because it must be a decision that is made out of the deepest love for God.  A decision to yield oneself entirely to  Him so that He, and He alone, may  reign in us! A decision to give up our right to ourselves so that God Himself, through His Spirit, can work in us and through us to accomplish his purpose for us in this world!  And His purpose for us in this world is to bring His Kingdom into manifestation through His Love which he has poured into us by His Holy Spirit!  It is volunteering to be a worker in His Harvest regardless of the cost.

The purpose (or calling) of a disciple is to be a stand-in for Jesus and act in Jesus’ name and in His Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry to the world – that is, to proclaim and LIVE the Good news of the Kingdom with signs following and to make disciples. This is called the Great Commission. It is the call for workers for the Harvest. But, contrary to popular opinion, it is not necessarily a call to full time ministry – one can fulfill this  calling as whatever state in life you currently are. The Spirit of Jesus in you will then lead you to where He wants you – and it may be in the very same state where you received your calling or He may tell you to go into full time ministry. But it must be His call not yours.

Most of our religious traditions emphasize that “the Great  Commission”  is for all Christians, presuming that all are Christians have accepted their call to discipleship.  In reality, however most Christians, don’t even realize that discipleship does not  automatically ensue from our baptism. Living in discipleship means accepting being Yoked to Christ so He can live in you and through you.

You cannot freely make that decision until you are fully aware of the cost of that decision in that you are surrendering control of your life and placing it in Jesus’ hands. It is a decision to walk by the spirit and not by the flesh. It is a decision to yield to the Holy Spirit to form us into the Image of Christ and empower us for His Service. It is a decision to be empowered by the Holy Spirit with ALL the Spiritual Gifts that are needed to accomplish the task we are assigned. We cannot just pick and choose those gifts we are comfortable with or exercise those gifts wherever we want – we have to follow the leading of the Spirit of God in  all that we say or do.  Everything we say or do must be the Father’s will and not our own.

It must be stated that many of our religious traditions do make the conditions for discipleship VERY clear to those who choose to be ordained or enter into the consecrated religious Life. However, there is need to also reach out to us lay people so that it is clearly understood that  a discipleship relationship with Jesus is available to ALL Christians not just the ordained, religious or ministerial staff.

And the entry point to this “unofficial” type of discipleship for lay people is through prayer. Not just the superficial type of supplication prayer most lay people are accustomed to but a spiritually intimate, contemplative, mode of prayer such as the “Lectio Divina” mentioned in a previous posting. Without an intimate prayer life, it would be extremely difficult to discern the Fathers directives for your life and His specific will for those to whom you are ministering. You need to Hear His Voice in order to Obey!

This type of discipleship may be entered wherever you are in your life – it begins with a sincere prayer of repentance and a re-dedication of your life from that point on to the Lord!  The Lord can use you as a disciple wherever you are. He can use you a as a husband and father, He can use you as a wife and mother, He can use you as a single person and as a student still in school!

He will lead you and guide you using the circumstances of your life, because He will be your partner in the circumstances of your life or, rather, you will be His partner as He works in you and through you!  But you have to let Him In! You have to ask to be YOKED to Him!  And you have to put the Word of God into action in your life and the lives of those around you, so that you too, like Jesus can say: “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon me , because he has appointed me to proclaim the Good News ..” (Luke 4:18 )   through the life you will then live in His Name!

This how you become Jesus’ apprentice – because that is what true discipleship entails!

Here are the major principles to remember:

<>  The Word of  God

— Jesus is the WORD so if you are to Live like Jesus you have to live out the Word in your  life!

— The study and meditation on God’s Word is the Foundation on which the Holy Spirit will build…

—  It must be an integral part of your life as a disciple – HIS WORD is a lamp unto our feet a light unto our path!

— The Word is the most powerful defense and offense we have against the powers of darkness,. It is the Sword of the Spirit that you will need to put off these forces that will come against you when you make your decision.

<>  Prayer

— Prayer is essential to discipleship – but it is only part of the process

— It is through Prayer that we explicitly yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He may conform us to the image of Christ,

— It enables s a deep spirit-to-spirit dialogue with our Teacher to enable us to understand the WORD of  God, and the Father’s Will and His purposes for us so that we can be His instrument in bringing forth the   Kingdom through our lives.

— It provides us the spiritual basis and strength we need to persevere in the faith of our calling.

— It provides us the spiritual insight and empowerment we need to put the Word full into practice.

<>  Discipleship

— Discipleship is apprenticeship – and apprenticeship involves taking action in faith.

— Apprenticeship goes beyond merely learning the principles of the Kingdom and discerning the Fathers will…it is the living out of those principles in our lives so that the Kingdom will be made manifest through us as the Spirit leads;

–Acting on principles of the Kingdom of the Kingdom is not following a lot of religious rules or projects – it is an emptying out of ourselves so that God can fill us with His Spirit and work in us and through us;

— It is NOT us doing something for God BUT letting God do something through us.

–When we thus yield ourselves to the Spirit everything we do or say will always be within  the moral code established by God  because the Spirit of Jesus in us will  NEVER do something outside the Father’s will.

— If we do not put the principles of the kingdom into practice through the Spirit that is in us, we cannot bear fruit for the Kingdom and all our effort at growing spiritually will be for naught.

— If we attempt to take action to carry out the Kingdom  principles on our own we will utterly fail – for  our walk must be in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

<>  Spiritual Sustenance and Restoration

—  In order to sustain us as we “let His Kingdom Come” we also need Our “Daily Bread” – His Body and Blood as presented to us in Holy Communion. If possible,    received on a daily basis.

— As Jesus told His Disciples: – “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;  or my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” ( Jn. 6:53-56)

— And since we ought not partake unless we are in a repentant state (1 Cor. 11:23-27)), we also need the: graces offered in the Sacrament (ordinance) of Reconciliation.

<> The Challenge 

The Challenge, for those who sense the Lord is calling them and whose spirit has been incited by this article, is to come to the point of making a decision in faith and carrying out that decision in their lives. To that end the next article will deal with the specific items that we all face in stepping out into a discipleship relationship with Jesus, namely …

— Assessing the Cost

— Making the Decision (and  the commitment)

—  Living out our discipleship within the circumstances of our lives with humility, perseverance and faith.

In going forward only remember this… “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1Cor. 1:26-31)

Praised Be His Holy Name!!

May the Lord Bless you all and may His Spirit enable you to respond to His call!

Your brother and fellow pilgrim in Christ Jesus…. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019])

RELATED LINKS

•  Yielding to the Kingdom Anointing

•  Living In the Kingdom NOW!

• Overcoming the World

• Releasing the Spirit

• Praying In the Spirit

• Renewal of our Minds

• Hearing God’s Voice … and Obeying It!

• The Crucified Life

•  The Cost of Discipleship

• The Sweet Yoke of Love

• Husbands Love your Wives

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Double Portion Anointing

The Kingdom of God: Our Inheritance

• Awakening to the Father’s Love (Part 1)

• Awakening to the Father’s Love (Part 2)

St. Theresa: Regarding Prayer

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