You Can’t Make a Disciple If You Are Not A Disciple

17 10 2015

With_His_Disciples027You cannot make a disciple if you are not a disciple. If you are not a disciple, then you are something Jesus did not call men to become and something He never sent men out to make.  Jesus gets to set the criteria as to what  a disciple is.  We do not care what the dictionary or the lexicon says a disciple is.  We are addressing what Jesus says a disciple is.   Theologians don’t get to define discipleship, your pastor does not and neither do you and I. Jesus called men to become disciples repeatedly. Here is how He calls disciples and defines disciples.

Luke 14:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Some translations render the closing statement, “whoever does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”. Jesus not only came to make disciples but He also commanded disciples to go on and make more disciples. See the Great Commission. It is His method of expanding the Kingdom of God. But I really like the wording of the verse listed here.  “Any of you who does not renounce all that he has…”. Renounce. Not a word we hear in modern Christianity. To renounce something is to formally declare one’s abandonment of a claim, a right or possession.  I have a question.  Have you formally renounced or abandoned your claim, your right to all but Christ.  Have you renounced your right to your own possessions, your own life and chosen Jesus and Him alone?

I am a disciple maker and that should excite you. It should excite you because, frankly, I am, really, just a regular guy.   I am a man of average intelligence, average education and like you, for most of my Christian life, no one ever trained me on how to make a disciple. I now understand, I could not make a disciple, because I was not even a disciple myself. I began to understand that I had not answered the call to be a disciple, because somewhere along the road after surrendering to the Lord Jesus, I was talked out of actually following Him. As a new believer, I read of giving up everything for Jesus.  But as I shared this understanding I was told by leaders and my peers that for various reasons, Jesus did not really mean all that “give up everything, and hate the world stuff”.  Seems He really just wanted me to be willing to be really committed, and not to actually live out that commitment.  Being a new believer, I assumed these experienced Christians knew what was best. I became like them.    About 6 years ago  I met  Marc Carrier, and  we began to discuss, the Kingdom of God, real discipleship and real disciple making. I read some books with a new perspective.  I came back to my original position of actually following Jesus.  I came to understand that I needed to “renounce” all else. For the first time it became clear that Jesus wanted my total allegiance. I had to abandon the rhetoric of Western Christianity and follow Jesus in order to heed the call to become a disciple and make disciples myself.  This was God’s Master Plan.

I am blessed to walk with  Marc as he disciples me,  because he is one of the only people I have ever met that is going to the lost, leading them into genuine repentance, faith and baptism and making disciples, that are making disciples.  Since that is the Great Commission, I am following his lead. I am sure there are many others making disciples. It would be awesome if you could find one and like me, learn from them. Trust me, you can’t do it Jesus’ way by using the internet.  You can’t do it from reading this post.  Sorry, I hope that was not your expectation.  Discipleship is  a personal interaction between a practitioner and an apprentice.

Most of us are not disciples ourselves.  We are  “just” believers. Some are bible teachers, pastors, construction workers, mothers and other professionals that think the transfer of information is making a disciple. We think the people we share with are disciples.  But neither them, nor most of us, have ever been given the call to become a disciple, nor chosen to pay the price of discipleship. Not formally anyway.  Of course, we do transfer information in making disciples, but that is only part of the process. You can go buy books on discipleship if you choose. But the books I have read are written by men that don’t actually “have” disciples.  Marc, actually has disciples that are making disciples. Now, after being discipled by Marc, I do too.  You can be and have disciples also, and I hope that is your intention. I assure you it is God’s intention for you.

First in Luke 14 we see how He defines a disciple or if you prefer we see the actual CALL to discipleship. He is not asking people to “get saved” believe in the price He will pay on Calvary, nor is He begging them to become a Christian. He does not even promise them heaven. No, He is calling them to give up EVERYTHING and come and follow Him.  He promises life now and it is called eternal life.

You and I were mostly taught one of two things. Either, everyone that is saved is a disciple or a person becomes a real disciple through study and prayer and a lifetime of slowly growing closer to Jesus.  Then in some super spiritual state,  some can somehow become so mature they are a disciple.   There are other fuzzy definitions and most don’t even think being a disciple is important. Jesus did. But our classroom, white board definitions, power point presentations and sermons are not the methods He used. Why don’t we look at what Jesus did? Why don’t we study the one that actually gave us the mission and made disciples that turned the world upside down, instead of some well meaning bible teacher that has never actually made a disciple, that has made a disciple.   Why don’t we look at Jesus first, before we do anything. I ask, why do we call Him Master and do not do what He commands or follow His methods? His first words after repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of God is at hand, are these:  Follow Me. Why don’t WE answer the call to discipleship and call others to do the same?

I would like to ask you to make a very startling realization.  And that is that you have most likely never been told of the call to discipleship and thus have never heeded it. Like me, you need to come to a place to confess an obvious truth.  No one has ever called you to BE a disciple.  Thus you have never chosen to become one. You  think you want to be one.  You love Jesus.  You want to follow Him.  But you have been told you can’t or it is not important or that verses talking about grace and works somehow mystically erased everything the King of Kings commanded us to do.  I decided to become a disciple.  You may already be one.  But you must chose. Our calls to pray a prayer, believe the four spiritual laws, or a set of orthodox beliefs in order to go to heaven and be “saved” are seen no where in scripture, being practiced by  Jesus or the Apostles.  As a result, unlike Jesus, we can’t accomplish God’s plans using man’s methods. We use the culturally attractive, best practices of the latest fad to get the “unchurched” to come to our meetings, to occasionally listen in to a sermon while being entertained by lights, sound and a warm fuzzy message on how great we are or can be if we would  just “get saved”.  This was not Jesus way. Our warm and fuzzy call to the lost so they can go to heaven and have their “best life now”,  must be replaced with the call to surrender everything and take up your cross and follow Him. Jesus made a call and it was to come and die that you may live. No wonder people in the church will compromise on marriage, entertain pornography and fall sway to the whims of the world.  We call them to a nice easy and better life full of all the world has to offer with the added bonus of eternity at the end and some really cool people to hang with in church till then.  Contrast that to Jesus call to give up and renounce everything. For three centuries the church suffered in torture, refused to renounce their Lord and paid the ultimate price.  They were known for living holy lives, feeding the poor and their love for the least of these.  This is the fruit of a people called to discipleship.

Luke 14, and other text repeatedly make calls of total commitment. You must give up all and come and follow Him. It is hard to be confused when Jesus lays down the requirements and relates to us to hate or choose Him over every relationship in our life, take up an instrument of death and yes, give up everything, including ourselves and follow Him.

He does this  in Luke and again in Matthew 10:

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

And of course most of us never dropped our nets.  Andrew and Peter literally dropped their nets to follow Jesus.  Matthew got up from the tax collectors table and walked away. Zachias seems to remain  in his profession and reordered his priorities to the Kingdom of God.  But let’s be honest, many of us have fashioned our lives around our careers to such an extent they would need to be, almost literally,  blown up and started over again, to follow Jesus.  As a business owner I spent 80 hours a week working.  We spend the vast majority of our time, focusing on our careers and sleeping. Our spare time in the West is mostly spent entertaining ourselves or trying to replace purpose with “fun”.  God has a bigger plan.  And we are accountable to follow Him, not our self made plans.  I will tell you there is no joy like serving the King of Kings.  No adventure like obeying His will and commands.  One man stated once that we were made for the  Kingdom of God.  We were engineered to be happy, challenged and fulfilled walking the Kingdom way.

I spoke at a traditional church years ago.  I stepped down from the podium and pointed at a young man and ask him what he did.  What was his job?  A teacher, he replied.  I went around the room asking the question to others.  They answered,  doctor, salesman, administrator, student, intern, entrepreneur.  I then asked if they followed Jesus.  They all nodded.  I told them then, their job, their mandate, was to make disciples.  They only taught, studied, managed and ran their business to fund and provide for their true career. Making disciples.  I was not trying to make a point of semantics, but of a necessary priority change.  They needed to “drop their net” and follow Jesus.  For most in the building it would require a counting of the cost and a radical change in lifestyle. We glaze over verse after verse where Jesus calls for a radical lifestyle shift to follow Him and think, wow that is cool.  Jesus said some radical things, back in His day.  Then we act like they have nothing to do with us.  I have a new paradigm  for you.  Jesus meant them for you.  And I want to tell you that you need to renounce your current way of viewing the world, your career and yes that is your job I am talking about.  In the American culture sports, jobs, money and advancement are what we place the most time, energy and money on, in order to aquire the American Dream. Oh, we Christians put a Christian spin on it, but we don’t really renounce anything of the world, but somehow imagine it does not matter, even as Jesus says it does.

Jesus makes some profound calls to discipleship. Let’s look at some.  First, the rich young ruler. We all get all bothered that Jesus asked him to sell all he had and come and follow me and then make a million excuses and run to theologians who assure us that Jesus did not mean what He said. It was just said for that bad young rich guy. But Jesus repeated that call to his disciples, the church practiced it in the book of Acts and the history of the early church tells us that sacrifical giving and lifestyle choices to make room for serving God were the norm.

 

Here is a quote from Ignatius a personal disciple of John.

r] I write to you in the midst of life, yet lusting after death. My lust has been crucified, and there is no fire of material longing in me, but only living water speaking in me, saying within me, Come to the Father. I have no delight in the food of corruption or in the delights of this life. I desire no longer to live after the manner of men. Ignatius: to the Romans (A.D. 35-105) ch.7

Here is a section from The Shepherd of Hermas, some believe was written while the Apostles were still alive.  It is clear this was the understanding of the church, renouncing the worldly pursuits and following Jesus.

He said to me; “You know that you, who are the servants of God, are dwelling in a foreign land; for your city is far from this city. If then you know your city, in which you shall dwell, why do you here prepare fields and expensive displays and buildings and dwelling-chambers which are superfluous? He, therefore, that prepares these things for this city does not purpose to return to his own city.

O foolish and double-minded and miserable man, do you not perceive that all these things are foreign, and are under the power of another?” Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg. 30

Where did they get such crazy ideas, these men that lived and walked among the disciples? Why, from the Apostles that were discipling them!  And they turned the world upside down.  Take the Apostle John for instance:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:15-16

Back to the concept of giving up everything for the Kingdom of God.  This time the instructions are not to the rich young ruler, but to men that were already following Jesus and NOT rich.

Luke 12:
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I was taught the rich young man had a big problem, but that this hard teaching was only in his case. Apparently I was misinformed. Jesus repeated it to His own key men.  I suspect it is recorded in these two instances, not because He only said it twice, but because it is something Jesus talked about to crowds often.  But let’s not get hung up on the money aspect just yet. The disciples must have been looked at as irresponsible, crazed fanatics by their friends and family. They abandoned a career in the family business.  Matthew had it made as a tax collector.  He was set for life.  Should you chose to become a disciple and thus a disciple maker you will have to reorder your life.  Jesus was not speaking platitudes.  He was not giving a three point sermon.  He was teaching us and telling us how to follow Him and be and make disciples. If your career has you consumed so much that you don’t have enough energy to read your bible for more than a few minutes and pray before bed, attend church a couple of times a week and visit your Facebook buddies and cheer each other’s “Christian” post while bemoaning the decent of mankind, then you have a life designed to be something other than an disciple.  Again, then you are something Jesus never called men to be and never sent men out to make.

One man Jesus called, said let me go bury my father. Jesus said let the dead bury the dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.

Another said he would follow Jesus anywhere and Jesus pointed out the cost. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nest, but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.

Another says I will follow you but let me go home first and say goodbye to my family. Jesus said no one putting their hand to the plow who turns  back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.

Back to Luke 9.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

How about that for an “alter” call?  What was Jesus’ point in all these statements? They must have truly upset the very people that were wanting to follow Him.  I believe that is the point.  Jesus wants to “upset” your life.  He actually does want you to renounce your former goals and direction and take on Kingdom goals and His mission.

You are reading this because you have an interest in disciple making.  But again, you cannot make a disciple, until you are a disciple.  And the call to be a disciple is the call to renounce and give up everything and come and follow Jesus.  You cannot ask another to do this while not having done it yourself.  Mark 1 and Matthew 4 say that the disciples dropped their nets at once and went and followed Him. They walked away from their family businesses. They walked away from any normal life, possibly damaging their livelihoods and destroying their reputations.   Depending on your career situation you may merely need to reorder your time away from work. I ask, have you dropped your nets?  Only you can decide to be a disciple.  Only you must work out what it looks like, in YOUR life.

For me, after leaving a career of  being an entrepreneur, I purposefully determined to look for something to pay my bills and leave enough for me to help others while funding my work in the Kingdom.  I was working to disciple six men from  terrible backgrounds in the poorest two zip codes of America.  We met one week night, spent almost all Saturdays together actually serving others, sharing and doing life together.  Then we often worshipped together on Sunday’s and spoke all during the week about life issues.  We ate together and mowed each others lawns. We meet informally and did, life together and  shared with the lost. While I went to work each day, it was to fund my endeavors for the Kingdom.  Not to keep up with the Joneses, improve my life on this earth or make myself comfortable.

I have a brother in the states that has turned down promotions that would have consumed his time and limited his ability to reach out to the lost and make disciples.  Another, that has chosen to live in a very simple apartment and drive an older car so that he can maximize his resources for the Kingdom.  Only you know what you need to do to make disciples.  But you must drop the nets of this world to take on the yoke of your Master.  You can not serve God and mammon.  It is impossible.

In 1 Corinthians 9:8 Paul tells us that God is able to bless us abundantly  so that we can have all we NEED and have enough left over for “every good work”.  Jesus tells the crowd of listeners, surely containing the poor, tradesmen and the more  well to do, to not worry about food or clothing.  We thought these were pretty words and admired them as well written  beautiful prose.  Jesus was telling His disciples how to live this life of discipleship.

You expected a a simple “Ten Steps to Disciplemaking” article or book.  Sorry.  Jesus said it cost everything.  And when you change your allegiance from the values and priorities of the world and become a disciple it changes everything.  And for many of us that means our careers, finances and our place in society.

I did not write the verses and it is not my teaching.  It is the clear, consistent teaching of Jesus.  Mammon is not just money, but all that it brings.  You must choose God or mammon. The bible promises you will hate one and love the other.  I suggest this is not an emotional love and hate, but a love and hate that can be measured in time allocation, the expenditure of money and resources,  energy spent and passion applied.  Who or what do you love when you work 50 hours a week at a secular job, pouring in your heart and soul and then pray for 10 minutes a day, read your bible for 20 and attend church three hours a week? Again, who are you serving when almost all your time is dedicated to your career?  Or worse, your leisure. Where is your passion going.

Jesus tells a parable that is a fact of life.  The story of the soils. Seed falls on many different types of “hearts” in the lesson.  The seed falling among some ground refers to someone who hears the word, receives it with enthusiasm, but the worries of this life and the lure of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mt 13:22.  We imagine we are immune.  We are not.

Now, right now, you have a hundred things racing through your mind. “What is this nut, Glenn, asking me to do? Quit my job and go into full time ministry? I thought that I was going to learn how to make a disciple. You know, how to teach a discipleship class or something. Perhaps a three point lesson or a get a discipleship manual”. Perhaps “The Five Simple Secrets of Being a Disciple Maker!” Sorry, friends, only Jesus gets to set the standard. His call makes men drop their nets, blow up their lives, give up their dreams. Renounce our former direction and come and follow Him. It sounds a lot like true repentance.

Jesus is asking you to turn in and abandon the American Dream for the Kingdom Dream. He set the standard on being a disciple. Who gave us permission to lower that standard. (Quote from Marc Carrier). And dear brother you can’t make a disciple, till you are one.

So before I can give you any information on technique, teachings, or other information I have to make sure you understand YOUR cost. It not only cost everything to become a disciple, but again, you can never make true disciples until you are one. You will reproduce after your own kind. So if you don’t surrender all and become a disciple to His standards, then you will reproduce mutants. Half breeds and unfit agents for the Kingdom. If you reproduce at all.

Now, I was really ready to hear this message when it came to me. I was blessed as I began my journey to becoming a disciple by some books God provided.    The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down, by David Bercot, The Gospel according to Jesus by Marc Carrier and Radical by David Platt.  Read them. There is now another book I can reccomend by my mentor Marc Carrier that will give you a look into making disciples on the mission field at home and abroad, using bibical methods.  It is called, Pioneering the Kingdom.  Get it and read it.

Don’t forget, the rich young ruler walked away sad.  Because he had much.  I hope you don’t.  Will you drop your nets in this life and become fishers of men?  Don’t quit your job. But, it could come to that for some of you.  Seriously.  A career decision you made before you surrendered everything to Jesus, was likely a decision that relects a different set of loyalties than those required to be and make a disciple.  You can’t have two masters.

I was never commanded in the Word to be a publisher. I was commanded to make disciples. Before, I was many things. I was a publisher, a business owner and entrepreneur.    And before I became a disciple,  I started sharing my faith every Saturday at a ministry. I stopped tailgating and drinking at football games. I led 267 people to pray the sinner’s prayer in about 18 months. Later, I began to understand the vast majority never grew. The seed seldom took. There was little fruit. I began to seek God about making disciples. I read the books I mentioned and I met Marc Carrier. I was never the same. I realized that being a good entrepreneur or publisher meant squat to God. He called us all to make disciples who obeyed ALL that Jesus commanded.

And that is where I am going to take you next.

I am going to ask you to count the cost, but you can’t even count the cost if you don’t know what it is. When Jesus laid down Luke 9, 14 and Matthew 10, He did so to people that had heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. They heard that they should lay up NO treasure on the earth. Learned that how they treated the least of these would impact eternity.  They understood the radical cost of turning the other cheek and loving even their enemies. You can’t make a disciple unless you are one. And Jesus defines an important aspect of making disciples in the Great Commission and it will be in our next lesson. Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And my dear brother and sister, He commanded some radical things.

The early church obeyed Him and turned the world upside down. You cannot teach others to obey what you don’t even believe needs obeying. You cannot teach others to obey, if you don’t obey. Like I said, you cannot make a disciple if you are not a disciple.
I hope you are not turning away, like the rich young ruler.  You can’t love this world and follow the Lord.  Read those books. Pray and question everything you thought you knew about being and making disciples. But soon we will ask if you want to come and follow Jesus.

God bless you and please pray for me.

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