Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Music has been an important part of my family’s life. Just as I remember sitting on the piano bench with my mother, it’s pleasing to see my granddaughter’s hand between my daughter’s as they “tickle the ivories.”

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Find more examples of “between” HERE.

As I processed this picture, I thought how beautifully it represents the process of discipleship. As my mother passed on a love for music to me, I passed that down to my daughter, who is now sharing that passion with her own daughters. When we recently visited their home, the two-year old sang “let it go” (just that phrase) repeatedly for about 30 minutes. I know that my mother is blessed to see her grands and greats follow her example.

In a similar fashion, the Apostle Paul shared with his spiritual son, Timothy, a pattern for discipleship; the passing down of spiritual truth to future generations. He said:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB)

Much as a parent imparts truth/skills to a child, every follower of Christ should embrace the role of being a spiritual parent to the point that they are able to see at least spiritual great-grandchildren – four generations (Paul – Timothy – Faithful Men – Others) – following them as imitators of Christ Jesus.

For some more thoughts and suggested resources on this topic, check out a previous post “Me, Disciple Someone.”

Me, Disciple Someone?

Christ’s mandate—to make disciples—is the theme of this week’s Radical study. Although Peter’s preaching resulted in the conversion of 3,000 on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), Christ’s strategy for reaching the world with his small band of people was NOT mass evangelism. Instead, Jesus clearly gave them the mandate for impacting the world through the process of making disciples:

18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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,20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB)

Rather than pursue modern “church growth” techniques and church marketing, we must return to the Biblical standard of discipleship—that is, the relational transmission of God’s truth in action from one person to another. As Jesus spoke of being the intermediary between the Father and man, He told His disciples to “learn from Me” (Matthew 11:29). Likewise, Jesus has entrusted to us an intermediary role between Him and new believers in order to:

…qualitatively trigger the process of total Christian learning / incarnating / living / testifying / soul-winning / teaching / disciple-building into the life of a new Christian. [1]

This should result in the 2 Timothy 2:2 reproductive pattern; from Paul to Timothy to faithful men and to others also. We see in that passage four generations of multiplying, Truth-transferring, world-impacting Christians.

Who is following you as you are following Christ? Into whom are you pouring your spiritual knowledge and passion, so that they will pour that truth into another? Put another way, do you have spiritual children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

The task may seem daunting. So, how do we go about that task? We begin with prayer. Even Jesus prayed to the Father before choosing His disciples. Ask God to lead you in the selection process. [2] He may lead you to someone who is already a believer, but immature. His leadership, however, may be to the “unbeliever,” with whom you can begin spiritual dialogues –  for the process starts at pre-conversion in order that they can be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then, as the Great Commission continues, you continue to teach them all that Christ commanded. As you have developed a rapport with the individual you have led to Christ, it is logical that you continue the process of leading them to maturity.

Where do you find the resources to disciple someone? Every believer should have a level of knowledge necessary to lead someone through the rudimentary elements of the gospel, along with your personal testimony of faith in Christ, thus allowing the Holy Spirit to convict a person of sin and draw him to repentance and salvation. Anyone, who has been in the fellowship of the church for any length of time, should have an incredible amount of resources from the Word of God at their finger tips or in their memory banks, allowing them to disciple someone else from the point of salvation to the level of a maturing, reproductive believer.

Herb Hodges suggests the following discipleship themes to accomplish this process:

  1. devotional: the means and mechanics of a daily, personal devotional life;
  2. doctrinal: the basic teachings of the Bible on things like God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, sin, salvation, etc.;
  3. dispositional: how to live a life of self-control in attitude and behavior;
  4. distress: how to face and overcome life’s difficulties;
  5. domestic: the biblical teachings on marriage and family;
  6. dedicational: living under the Lordship of Christ and His purposes;
  7. directional: seeing the strategy for being and building disciples. [3]

If you will begin to think in these categories, you can easily file your Sunday School / Bible study lessons and preaching notes into these themes and have ready resources to lead someone to become a follower of Christ.

This, of course, is only meant to “whet your appetite” and is in no way a thorough treatise on disciple-making. However, I hope that you will seriously weigh your responsibility and become faithful to this mandate!

YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Do you view the Great Commission as the responsibility of all believers or a select group of followers of Christ (ie: missionaries, pastors, etc.)?
  • What fears or inadequacies keep you from taking on the role of a disciple-maker?
  • If you are a disciple-maker, what words of encouragement would YOU give someone who is hesitant to take on the role? What resources have been helpful to you?

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1  Hodges, Herb, Fox Fever, Spiritual Life Ministries, p ii. (This is a great “how to” book available from the author HEREFox Fever is Herb’s sequel to Tally Ho the Fox, which lays out the foundational principles for making disciples, while Fox Fever relates to the practical side of disciple-making. Both are valuable resources.)

2  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman is a “must read” as a classic examination of Jesus’ process of making disciples. It highlights eight areas of disciple-making: selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision and reproduction.

3  Hodges, pp 147-160.

Radical Abandonment

On Sunday, we began a church-wide study of David Platt’s book, Radical. With the subtitle “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream,” this book calls for a serious look at the level of abandonment to which Jesus’ early followers understood His call to mean.

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34, 35 (NIV)

This call to radical surrender is not the typical invitation heard in most U.S. churches. We would say, “It’s obvious that Jesus never took the Dale Carnegie class, How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Or, we seek to diminish its seriousness by rationalizing that “Jesus didn’t really mean you have to give up everything.” However, Jesus is  brutally honest. “Following me,” He says, means: deny your self-directed life, aspirations, and ambitions; take up an instrument of death and die to yourself; follow my footsteps as a humble servant. This is a radical departure from the way many of us live out our comfortable Christianity.

Every generation needs it own clarion call to return to the radical claims of Jesus, and it is often best made by ones living out that radical abandonment to the call of Christ. Late in the 4th century, just a few hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Rome was officially Christian. No longer were Christians thrown to the lions for the entertainment of the populace, but there was still a blood-thirsty bent for amusement. The gladiatorial games now pitted those captured in war against one another in a fight to the death. Thousands crowded in arenas to see these spectacles.

At the time, a monk, called Telemachus, sensed that his isolated life of prayer, meditation and fasting in the desert was doing more to satisfy his own selfish love of God than to demonstrate a selfless love of God. It was revealed to him that if he was to serve God he must serve men. In order to do that, he must go to the cities where the need was, and he determined to go to Rome, the greatest of cities.

Upon arriving in Rome, he went to the stadium where eighty thousand people had gathered for their entertainment of gladiatorial combat. Appalled by the conflict, Telemachus jumped over the wall and came between two gladiators, separating them by his own hands and rebuking them for shedding innocent blood. He then reproved the crowd by saying, “Do not repay God’s mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!” The crowd demanded that the games go on and began to hurl stones at the interloper. He was finally stabbed by a gladiator and died.

Fox’s Book of Martyrs concludes the account of Telemachus in this way:

His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus-no more. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.[1]

Edward Gibbon said of Telemachus, “His death was more useful to mankind than his life.” [2]  A martyr of the last century, Jim Elliot, expressed his understanding of abandonment for the cause of Christ: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” [3]

Does abandonment to Christ always lead to death? I think we see stories like this and shrink away from that kind of surrender because we fear the loss of property, ease, relationship and even life. We must remember that for every martyr there are perhaps thousands (even millions) who are ultimately influenced for all eternity and, in turn, carry out a life of abandonment without facing a horrific death. But, are you willing to abandon your life to the level to which Jesus called his original disciples?  Who will be the Telemachus or the Jim Elliot of this generation?

YOUR RESPONSE:

  • Have you ever found yourself bargaining with God as to the level or location of service  to which you’re willing to go?
  • What keeps you from total surrender?
  • As an immediate reference to his quote above, Jim Elliot added this verse to his journal entry: [I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so]* that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9). How are you wisely using your earthly possessions to store up treasures in heaven?

* Omitted in journal entry; included for context.

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Fox’s Book of Martyrs, The Last Roman “Triumph” online version.

2  Edward Gibbon,The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 3, p 210.

3 Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty, Harper and Row (1958), p 108.