A disciple is an apprentice of the Lord Jesus, one who responds to his gracious invitation to come and be connected to him and be taught by him how to live obediently in every circumstance with the beauty, goodness and strength God intended when he created us.
So discipleship is gladly acknowledging God’s authority in all things and obeying everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:18–20). (More on this obedience in a future post.) Jesus summarizes God’s will for our lives and the obedience that we owe to him with the two Great Commandments: we are to love God before everything else and to love others with the same commitment we have to our own well-being (Matt. 22:37–40).
But how do you decide what to love, and especially what to love so completely? In normal human experience, what we love most is what drives and determines most of our decisions and not the other way round. We don’t decide to love something. We love something just because we do. But discipleship to the Lord Jesus demands a total reorientation of the most fundamental loves, allegiances, priorities, commitments and identities in our lives. That means that we need something or someone from outside ourselves to initiate this total transformation of our lives.
Discipleship means living out of a new kind of love, and having those new loves requires having a new heart. Or the way that Jesus said it, if you want to experience the kind of abundant life that only can come by living it entirely and gladly under God’s authority, then you have to be born again (John 3:3). The only way to experience that new birth is to believe that Jesus’ death enables him to give you his heart and his life that love God and others just the way we were created to (John 3:14–15).
Our discipleship to Jesus is born out of faith in him through the gospel.
But the centrality of the gospel doesn’t stop with our new birth. Not only is discipleship gospel-born, it is also gospel-borne. Our full reliance on the perfect obedience of Christ continues to carry us throughout our life of discipleship to Jesus. As Tim Keller has written, “The gospel not only is the way we are saved but also is always the solution to every problem and the way to advance at every stage in the Christian life.”
There is no way to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus other than by the gospel and the new birth, new heart, new spirit and new life that it promises to us. And there is no way to continue to grow to become more like Jesus apart from Jesus and our reliance on all he has done for us on the cross and in his resurrection.
We become more fully obedient to his commands to love God and love others only as we become less confident in ourselves and our own spiritual capabilities and more fully confident in Christ’s prior, perfect and perfecting love for us, decisively demonstrated on the cross (1 John 4:16–21).
(This post is the first in a series of six posts that will highlight essential attributes of biblical discipleship.)
The gospel has an ethic. And that is an ethic that loves no matter what. That speaks out against and works against injustice in any society. And that suffers with those who suffer no matter how different they are than you and no matter how different their attitudes may be than yours.
It’s my mother’s fault.
I am a military brat, Air Force to be specific. We traveled all over the U.S., and so I didn’t attend the same schools or keep the same friends. What was a constant was watching my mom serve our country wherever Dad was stationed. She was the ultimate example of a volunteer in our schools and community. Volunteering was what you did to make a difference, to be a contributing member of society. It was as much a part of my upbringing as anything.
I did not start my personal relationship with Christ until I was in my 20s, and I was really interested in what the Bible said about volunteering. Funny thing, I couldn’t find the word, volunteer, anywhere in Scripture. What I did find was the word, serve, over and over again.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. Ephesians 6:7
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
The word volunteer in human terms implies that we have a choice about volunteering or serving. As Christians, we do not have a choice to serve. It is commanded and required from a disciple of Christ. If we are to be Christ like, to reflect the glory of God, we must follow his example of service.
This is the time of year where we are actively staffing for promotion Sunday in August. If you are not currently serving, please be in prayer about where God has already equipped you to serve. If you are not sure where that would be, please contact me at and we can spend some time figuring it out.
I love to serve; it’s where I have made my closest friends. It is where I experience great joy. My husband and son would probably say that I have raised my hand too often to serve. In my defense, I was just following mom. And Jesus.
Remember the movie Castaway? Tom Hanks’ character’s plane crashes, and he ends up on a deserted island. As he begins his first days, he finds a volleyball from the wreckage, crafts a face and names it Wilson. He basically fashions a community for himself.
I find it very compelling that his initial need for connection weighed more heavily than any other survival task. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Wilson provides the “connection” needed to survive and endure four years as a castaway.
So why do we need this connection to community?
We are wired for relationship at the most fundamental level.
God lives in community as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There will never be a time that God is without community, and because we are made in his image, we have a profound need to be connected as well.
God endowed each of us with unique gifts, skills and talents, and we are all needed to create the bigger “whole.”
From the beginning, God intended his church to function together, not separately. Paul vividly points out this truth in 1 Corinthians 12:7, 27: “…A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” Not alone, but together!
The gospel is meant to be lived with one another.
We’re all familiar with commands from the Bible such as “love one another,” “forgive one another” and “bear one another’s burdens.” The term “one another” is found in 94 verses in the New Testament, and 47 of those verses are commands given to the followers of Jesus. True faith lives only when we are with one another. True sustained growth only happens only when we are with one another. How can we practice the “one anothers” unless we are with one another?
The deepest level of community happens in a Sunday morning Grow Group or an evening Life Group. This is where friendships are formed, where we identify and use our unique talents to help each other grow and where we are given the opportunity to learn obedience through the practical application of the “one another” commands. Spiritual growth is uncertain apart from close connection with other believers. The Bible is clear that Jesus used this model with his own disciples as those twelve men did life together.
Are you involved in a Grow Group or a Life Group? Have you been intentional about joining a group where you can do life together with other Christ followers? If you aren’t a part of a group yet, let us connect you to a group that might be right for you!
Our purpose in DiscoveryLand Preschool Ministry is to invest in those most precious to the heart of God. And each child that comes through our doors is a gift from him. We believe all children should know that God made them, God loves them, and Jesus wants to be their friend forever.
Through biblically sound curriculum, children are taught these three basic truths through fun Bible stories, activities, songs and crafts. These concepts are worked into our lessons each week in a way that’s engaging even to the youngest child – from lullaby songs for babies to more complex lessons and activities for older preschoolers, we work to "make it fun, make it true and make it stick." In each age level, we have the common goal of teaching basic truths that will remain with these little ones for the rest of their lives.
Take some time to really absorb the truths and verses below. These are great to review with your preschooler, but they are just as powerful to the heart and life of an adult.
God made me: Psalm 139:13-14
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
God loves me: Romans 8:38-39
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus wants to be my friend forever: John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
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