The Bare Soul - November 20, 2011
Discipleship

Matthew 28:19 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations ...

What does it mean to be a disciple? We see rather ordinary characters identified as Christ's disciples by the Gospel writers. Throughout these Scriptures, we often get vivid accounts of the disciples acting in very human ways. Those who have read the first four books of the New Testament, even in a casual manner, understand the disciples were prone to constant correction and reproof by the Master. Yet, we recognize a resoluteness as they persevered through three years of seeming vagrancy with this itinerant preacher. During this time, their love was not yet fully consummated for their Lord as it would be after His resurrection. However, they loved Him enough to know they would follow this Man wherever He might lead. Probably not until after Christ rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost did they fully understand what it meant to be His disciples. Up until that time, in some regard, they only knew themselves as disciples by name. No matter how imperfectly they followed Jesus, they nonetheless fulfilled the definition of a disciple as those seeking to adhere to the Lord's teachings and commands.

The transliteration of the word disciple in the Greek is matheteuo. Referring to its context in our lead verse  it means to "to follow his precepts and instructions." By following Christ's teachings and instructions during His life upon this earth, the disciples became acutely aware of their inability to emulate their Teacher. However, they persevered until they were endued with power on high to accomplish the impossible. No longer would they seek to be like Christ, but now He lived within them and they could function with the same power of the Godhead which they witnessed before their Lord's departure. From the scriptures, we see Jesus reminding His disciples time after time of their shortcomings while He was with them. The final disappointment to the disciples was the fulfillment of Christ's prophecy where they would all forsake Him. (Matthew 26:31-35) Yet, Jesus knew what was in man and patiently loved His disciples even in their failings. While all forsook Him, He promised He would never forsake His own. (Hebrews 13:5)

Jesus was not a stranger to discipleship. The Gospel of Luke has often been called the "Gospel of Our Praying Lord." Luke mentions Jesus in prayer more than any of the other Gospel writers. Jesus had God's ear and He obviously listened intently as the Father spoke to Him. Isaiah gives us a glimpse into Jesus' prayer life in the prophecy about Christ in the 50th chapter. The prophet states: The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (Isaiah 50:4) We read in Mark's Gospel where Jesus rose early in the morning to retire to a place of prayer. (Mark 1:35) We can easily surmise from Isaiah's prophecy (and from the Gospels) that Jesus was listening, morning by morning, for the words of His Father. Jesus knew discipleship first-hand for He practiced it daily with His Heavenly Lord. Jesus knew His Father's "precepts," for He grew up to the stature of a man who never disobeyed even one command. However, Christ knew the importance of coming before His Father to hear His "instruction" for that particular day. Embodied in that instruction was a fullness of love and expectation concerning how that love would play out during that day of ministry. Of great significance is what the Lord Jesus tells His disciples concerning His Father's expectation of Himself, as His Father's disciple. He communicates two important truths in this regard from the Gospel of John.

First, we read in John 13:35 regarding the importance of the witness of love. Jesus plainly states the following: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. Jesus proclaimed that love for one another would be the proof of their discipleship. I can't say this for sure, but I believe He was saying something to the effect as, "You can fake love to God for a season, but not to one another. It will quickly be apparent to all how you treat one another." This leads into Jesus' second admonition regarding discipleship in John the 15th chapter. He tells them the following: My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:8) In these two verses, we have the crux of discipleship. First, Jesus reveals that we must love each other, for this is the way the world will see we are are truly His. Second, this manifestation of love can only come by our love for Jesus and the Father and our desire to bear much fruit for God. To love the Lord God with all one's heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves is the true hallmark of discipleship. It shows our ears are awake "to listen as a disciple."

Someone wisely stated "Christianity without discipleship is Christianity without Christ." Jesus Christ Himself gave us the the greatest example of discipleship. If we call ourselves Christians, it is our duty and responsibility to obediently give Him our ears and listen attentively to how we should order our lives. Anything less is going it alone, without the Savior. We must allow ourselves to sit before Him and to patiently wait for His leading in our respective lives. How much of our listening has become dull and lifeless? He promises to once again give us ears to hear, if we will but ask. Are you listening, beloved? He is speaking, even now.

Heavenly Father, give us ears to hear. Disciple us through Your Holy Spirit who lives within. Grant us not only ears to hear, but hearts to obey so we might prove to the world You live within us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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