Yesterday I gave you some tips on finding believers you can join with to grow and pursue the Lord. Now, when you get this group together, you are making a Disciple. If that bothers you, remember they are also making a disciple out of you. A group like this is where the spiritually younger seek out the older and say, “Please teach me and let your lifestyle rub off on me. I want to learn from you.”
Often small groups are just supportive fellowships, where more-or-less peers get together and say, “You teach me what you know about Jesus, and I will teach you what I know. Where you are strong, and I am weak, you help me. Where I am strong, and you are weak I will help you, so we can grow together.”
When God’s family is truly functioning, the holes, scars, weaknesses and broken parts of the physical family are filled in, healed, mended and completed. When the body is functioning properly, we can live full, balanced lives, with all the richness of relationships that we need.
My friends, if we don’t want our faith understood as a retreat from life, but as an effort to transfigure a life, then we need each member doing its part. Every man and woman must work together where they are exposed to the problems of every-day life: in their jobs, in their neighborhoods, and in their homes. In his booklet, “Life Is Commitment,” J.H. Oldham wrote, “It is through its lay members that the Church makes contact with the life of the world.”
Right now names may be popping into your head. Are they people you would really love to get together with and share the Lord? Get away in a time of concentrated prayer and if He seems to indicate that this group is right, either they will ask you or you will ask them. Either way it will happen, and it will work.
But let’s get back to making disciples. Jesus’ last words to his Twelve were, “I am leaving you, so you turn around and disciple others, just as I have made disciples of you. See that they are baptized, and teach them everything you have learned from me” (Matthew 28:18-20). And that is what the Twelve went out and did, and the result is that we have the Church today. But notice that he said, “Teach them everything I have taught you.” The point is, my responsibility is to share all that I have learned. To pour my life into the life of someone else, and they pour theirs into mine.
Jesus never told us to, “Go out and evangelize.” He said, “Go make disciples.” Not all of us are evangelists, but all Christians must make disciples. He never said, “Go have occasional crash programs and retreats.” Those just wear out the saints, and the results can be almost nil. No. Little-by-little, line-upon-line, and precept-upon-precept, Christians are to disciple each other. Then, more particularly, the more mature are to disciple the less mature, and the ones who know little are to learn from those who know more, and in this way the whole family of God acts out its roles and grows in Him (II Timothy 2:2).
New believers start out as children. They learn from many fathers and mothers, at close range, with time enough to let the learning relate to their daily lives and get it all worked in, in application. Eventually (hopefully soon) they will be parenting others. No, this isn’t easy. That is why the ABC’s I presented are all important. They may be the big shots in business, or have years of maturity and knowledge in many areas, but to humble themselves enough to be accountable to others, and to be broken in spirit, won’t be easy.
Consider Paul. Sometimes we think of him as a very young man when he met Christ. Scholars tell us he was probably in his forties. He was a respected Pharisee and more; a member of the exclusive Sanhedrin (like our Supreme Court). In Paul’s career as well as in his personality, Paul was in cement. He had become hardened into his loves and hates. Then he meets Jesus! By instant blindness, he is made physically dependent on others. For three days, he is led by the hand like a little child. Then he is delivered into the hands of a big brother in God’s family, Ananias, to whom he is to submit for counseling and instruction. Paul is a brand new baby Christian, a little brother in Christ.
Or maybe we can look at Nicodemus, another religious heavy. He had been an authority for many years; others went to him for instruction. When he came to Jesus, he made himself vulnerable. He came humbly, as a learner; he asked for it, and he got it! John 3:10-11 may have been the first time anyone had rebuked him since he was a boy. The Interpreter’s Bible, commenting on this passage, says, “there is no credit in a bovine (cow-like) creature who just doesn’t understand what he is getting into, but a man of true courage will gather up his fears, his awkwardness at the unfamiliar, and come to Jesus, anyway!”
That is how people are born-again into God’s family. Grown men, able women, important people recognized for their skills and status, have to have the courage to step over into God’s family and play a brand-new role; they are a new little brother or little sister with a whole lot to learn.
A friend of mine, also a Pastor, had been leading his church for several years and rarely, if ever, heard from his father. Then one weekend, totally unexpectedly, his father showed up at the church and sat through the entire service — gave his life to the Lord — and for several years afterward, sat under the teaching of his son. That’s right. He began as the father of my friend and became a brother-in-Christ and a “disciple” of his son. Freaky, huh? How humbling must it have been for a father to submit to his son?
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, told a story about a time when he was explaining how he had been a believer for 30 years or so, and how he had grown to know the Lord, to experience his wisdom and love. But after he finished, a woman came up to him and very lovingly explained that she was 74 years old, and had come to Jesus when she was 12 years old, and said “Sonny, you don‟t know anything yet!”
Isn’t that great? Each day we will grow more and more in our relationship with Jesus, and we will never be able to say we know all there is to know! Do you remember when Jesus called a little child over, set him in the middle of the group and said, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:3-5).
So first we see that a person mature in the family of this world has to be willing to be born again and open up his mind, heart, eyes and ears to a new world. He has to play a brand new role, that of baby brother, and be willing to go to the places where he can learn, and where he can ask foolish questions. If he wants to grow, he must be willing to submit to teaching and to being loved and cared for and advised. That my friends is a stumbling block for some.
However, the parents and big brothers and sisters in God’s family must be willing to assume their roles. They must give him plenty of time, feeding information, tenderly rebuking, pointing out Scriptures, and simply reacting to life in front of him so that he can learn how Christians react to life. They must do and be everything that is needed to bring that spiritual baby to maturity, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
That all sounds nice, but if Christians never develop the vision on how the members of the family of God function, they won’t see each other with spiritual eyes. They will never see a newly converted big shot as a new baby brother. They will simply see him as a big shot, and he will be encouraged to talk too much and not listen enough. They may be intimidated by the new believer’s status in the world, but if that happens, that new believer will be cheated and his growth stunted.
I have told this story before, but it perfectly illustrated for me how this may happen. I attended a Men’s Breakfast, at “Domino Farms,” in Ann Arbor. Tom Monaghan, the founder (and at that time, owner) of Domino’s Pizza, would occasionally attend that breakfast. After one breakfast, I walked up to him and politely told him that very soon he would face extreme financial troubles and that the Lord wanted him to prepare his heart and focus on Him alone. (The message went a little further, but that was the gist of the Word).
Now when I said that, two of the leaders of the Breakfast apologized to Mr. Monaghan for my rude announcement, but Mr. Monaghan smiled and thanked me. Several months later, due to tremendous financial problems, he was forced to sell many of his holdings, such as the Detroit Tigers; Drummond Island; and several properties, just to “stay alive” financially – and guess what? Many articles and commentators criticized and made fun of Monaghan. Before the financial crash of his empire, he was Ann Arbor’s favorite citizen. But afterward, they ignored any request he made of the city officials. Go figure.
What I witnessed in that encounter is how the leaders of the breakfast were intimidated by Mr. Monaghan’s presence. They were more honored that he attended the breakfast than concerned that the Lord wanted to speak to him.
I originally gave my heart to Jesus in the eighth grade. I was attending a church camp in Holland Michigan, and my decision was sincere and completely open. The problem is that I never had anyone come to teach me about my new found life! No one came to disciple me! I was left on my own. Once I entered High School, I suffered many heartaches, pains, and struggles that I should never have experienced! If only someone had taken me under their wings and cared for me, taught me, helped me! Oh, how desperately I needed someone. But there was no one to show me the way. I was a Timothy without a Paul.
Those of us who have walked sincerely with the Lord must open our hearts to the responsibilities we have to care for the new believers. Most of the new believers don’t even know that they need help, so we need to patiently and tenderly watch over their growth.
In God’s family, we play completely different roles from those the world knows. It is essential that we understand them and that we function within them, in order to help each other grow strong in Christ. The world is full these days of new babies in the family of God. But so few of the other members of the family have realized, and assumed, their roles.
I will be talking more about this need to grow because we have so many people in ministry who have no discipline or training. Now, I am not talking about seminaries or Bible Schools. Those things are nice, but they only develop your mind and do nothing about a person’s character or Spirit. An old proverb states, “They die by degrees.” (Those with ears to hear . . .).
For now, realize that there is a little girl or a little boy down the street who has just received Jesus as Savior. It could have happened in a Child Evangelism class or a Sunday school, or like me, at a camp, and this child’s parents are not yet Christians. Who is going to support and encourage this child’s faith? Maybe you know an adult who likes you and is just beginning to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. What are you going to do about it?
Remember that passage in the 18th chapter of Matthew? Jesus’ parting words told us to go disciple others, teaching them everything that he has taught us (Matthew 28:16-20). If all you know is John 3:16, then go and teach that! Whatever you have learned, you are responsible for sharing. You don’t need a whole bunch of knowledge or Bible verses memorized, all you need is God’s life and love in your heart. Simply share what you have received and learned!
That is what happened immediately after Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. Later it became Paul’s lifestyle, and he told his disciples to do the same: “(Timothy), everything that you have heard me preach you should in turn entrust to reliable men, who will be able to pass it on to others” (II Timothy 2:2).
This is basic, biblical Christianity. No Christian service can substitute for this; not directing the church choir, not ushering, not cooking church dinners . . . not even writing Christian books. Discipling is foundational; it keeps you in touch with God and with people, and keeps you bringing the two together. It keeps you growing in Grace; your personality is challenged and stretched. It keeps you growing in knowledge; you automatically keep learning God‟s Word. It is God‟s plan for your life.
Have you been a Christian for a while, and learned a few things? Then you are responsible for acting out your role as a spiritual father or mother in God’s family. Gather those around you who have heart, who are available, and who are teachable, and say, “Hey, how would you like to meet together once a week for a little Bible study, and to share our lives, say, through next June? Would that be possible?”
Or are you a young Christian who doesn’t know much yet? You are responsible for acting out your role as a child in the family. Go to someone you respect and say, “I really want to learn more about the Bible and about the Christian life. Would you take me on for a while and disciple me?”
To make sure you never grow stagnate you should always be learning from those who know more than you do, and you should always be teaching those who know less. All of us are forever responsible for being sons, brothers, or fathers, daughters, sisters, or mothers. Depending on the spiritual level of the one to whom we are relating at the moment.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list. However, you can also find these messages at: Thought For The Day)
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.