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Mary and Discipleship

Luke 1:26-38
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.[1]


Who is Mary?

We learn the basics of who Mary is from Luke 1:26. It is pretty straight forward information, but it all bears noteworthy information about her.

  • She is from Nazareth in Galilee
  • She is a virgin
  • She is engaged to Joseph, a descendent of David (2 Samuel 7:12)
  • The Lord is with her
  • She had found favor with God

Mary is a young teenaged girl when she is introduced to us by God through the pen of Luke.

I don’t know about you, but I have always regarded Mary to be a girl beyond her years in maturity of faith. I don’t know any teenage girls who would respond to the angel Gabriel in the manner in which Mary demonstrates. However, a well-discipled teenage girl might have the wherewithal to respond in faith as Mary.

Examples of discipleship from Mary’s encounter with Gabriel

Fear

In Luke 1:29-30 we see that Mary was afraid. The meaning of the Greek word used here is to agitate, trouble. To stir up throughout. Spoken of the mind, and elsewhere, to disturb, agitate.[1]

We see this often in the scripture when an angel shows up to make an announcement to humans. The first, and very human, response is fear.

I have never been visited by an angel, have you? I can only imagine it would be an unsettling experience.

As a matter of fact, when I was encapsulated by the Lord Jesus years ago, it was an unsettling experience for my mind and soul. I knew change was coming and it frightened me beyond any fear I had experienced in the past. It was a fear of the unknown, the changes to take place and the disruption to my pre-Christian life.

Fear has been hard-wired into all of us when big change is on the horizon. Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s appearance was her natural human response.

When you begin the discipleship process with another, fear will likely be one of the new disciple’s greatest adversaries.

Help a disciple overcome fear with faith.

Share some of these “fear not” verses with a new believer who is frightened of the changes they will be experiencing throughout the process of discipleship.

  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Psalm 56:3
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • John 14:27
  • 2 Timothy 1:7
  • 1 John 4:18

Questioning

Mary’s second response to Gabriel was to question what he was telling her. She wasn’t questioning from an attitude of doubt, she was questioning from an attitude of faith.

Luke 1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

When Mary is described as a “virgin” the original language for the word “virgin” literally means one who is not intimate with a man. She knew how babies were made; she just didn’t know how that could possibly happen to her. She was a good and obedient betrothed; she wasn’t messing around on the side.

Mary’s question is a growth question. Her eyes could only see the human aspect of the scenario described by Gabriel. She was asking how. She did not ask why.

She had her plans laid out; she was betrothed to Joseph and she would be married when the year’s time had passed. This pronouncement threw a kink in her timeline.

As disciple makers we will be asked how questions all the time. Be prepared to give an answer from scripture.

When I was being discipled, I asked a lot of questions. I had no biblical background and had never owned a bible. Every bit of information I was being taught was a foreign concept. My disciple maker possessed the patience of Job and answered all my questions with compassion and patience. When my disciple maker didn’t know the answer she would pull out a reference book on the spot or she would research the answer and share it the next time we met.

Gabriel answered Mary’s question with compassion and patience.

Submission

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message is astonishing! Her complete submission and obedience are what all disciples are to achieve.

Mary heard the message, questioned it with faith, then completely submitted to it with full confidence in the One who delivered it.

Obedience to His Word is where real growth begins.

For some disciples of Christ obedience to His Word seems as easy as walking – it comes naturally to them. For others, obedience will be a challenge.

Make sure you can identify the difference between learners, listeners, and life-giving obeyers.

  • Learners take in information and may or may not obey.
  • Listeners hear, but do not obey.
  • Life-giving obeyers take it in and obey what they are told.

if-we-truly-trust-and-believe-in-gods-power-to-deliver-on-his-promises-alannah-francis

Read the article by Alannah Francis here!


[1] NASB

[1]Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G1298). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Nurturing the Divine Nature

Just as food nourishes our bodies to keep us healthy, God’s Word is designed to keep us spiritually healthy.

Are you starving or thriving?

Are those you disciple starving or thriving?

Most of us eat three meals each day, but as sure as skipping breakfast causes us to grow weary before the noon meal, skipping daily spiritual nourishment will leave us fragile, unguarded, and easy prey to the corruption of the world around us. We are literally unarmed against the onslaught of bullets the world and our spiritual enemy fires at us.

I am a walker. I take short walks three to four times each day. As I walk around the neighborhood in the evening, I can see that the television is on in nearly every household I pass. I don’t know what my neighbors are watching, but I often wonder what sort of moral or ethical filters (if any) they have in place to combat the onslaught of wickedness and sometimes erroneous messages being presented. Are they filtering the messages they are hearing and seeing?

In order to quell any suspicion of my condemnation, I turn on the television in the evening as well. I usually watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. If you have ever watched this program, you are aware that it is less than upright in its morality and is entirely accurate in its portrayal of our spiritually bankrupt culture. Quite often I fast-forward through scenes that are completely objectionable and I still get the story line without being subjected to offensive human morality.  I have filters in place that say, “Don’t go there!”  My filters are not perfected, but after more than thirty years of sitting at Jesus’ feet, there are filters in place.

The point being — what filters has the Lord put in place in order for you to navigate the murky moral waters in which we dwell?

There is a spiritual discipline we have learned by constant practice and development. It is the spiritual discipline of reading God’s Word daily.

I love the way David says it in Psalm 63:2

psalm-63_2-i-have-seen-you-in-the-sanctuary

David was a frequent flyer to the Lord’s sanctuary.

It is a fundamental responsibility for all His children to frequent His sanctuary to behold His power and glory.

His sanctuary is wherever we choose to make it. His sanctuary is wherever we are.

We enter His sanctuary seeking an increase of grace and peace for the day.  [1]

Nourishing the Divine Nature

2-peter-1_2_4-grace-and-peace

Nurturing the Divine Nature means we enter His sanctuary daily presenting ourselves to behold His power and glory, thereby taking in His promises and guidance as our daily nourishment.

Do you go into His sanctuary every day to behold the glory and power of the Lord?

Are your heart, mind and morals being transformed according to His divine nature?


Disciple Making Process

So, how do we, as disciple makers, train a new believer to nurture the divine nature they have been granted at conversion?

What do they need that will save them from the corruption of the world and their own evil desires?

It is our duty, as disciple makers, to train a new believer to form godly habits – but how?

If you have raised, or are raising children, you know they didn’t come forth from the womb with an appetite for steak or pot roast. You fed them milk before you introduced pureed cereal, vegetables and fruit. Later, after they grew some teeth, you methodically introduced them to solid foods. For me, it seemed like a never-ending process, but in retrospect it only took a year to get them to eat solid food.

Training a disciple in godly habits is the same process.


1 Cor 3:2 Nurturing DiscipleshipBaby food

Give the one you are discipling a daily assignment.

A new disciple’s greatest need is assurance of their salvation, so give them assurance of salvation verses to read each day.

  • Click here for a list of Assurance of Salvation verses.
  • Choose one per day until you next meet together.
  • Ask them to memorize their favorite verse from the list.
  • See the blog post “Self-Feeders” and pray for them every day!

When you come together again, ask them to tell you how they know they are a Christian.

If they are unable to identify themselves as a Christian, share the gospel message with them and invite them to become partakers of the divine nature.

Introduce “Quiet Time”

You can call it whatever you wish. Simply introduce them to the discipline of daily Bible reading.

Ask them to read only one assurance of salvation verse each morning.

Ask them to think of any questions they may have about it and write it down for your next meeting.

If you are led by the Spirit, call or text them to see if there are any questions after a few days. Do not call or text if you are not led.

Gentle encouragement is what they need as they begin their journey of discipleship.

One note here: If they do not complete these verses for your next meeting, you will want to pray about their commitment to the discipleship process. Do not waste your time if you feel they lack interest or motivation. If they have read more than the one verse per day, you know you have a dedicated disciple!


[1] Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (2 Pe 1:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.


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Self-Feeders

Developing self-feeding disciples needs to be a disciple maker’s highest priority.

One of the pitfalls I have fallen into as a disciple maker is allowing those I have discipled to become dependent upon my instruction and direction each week instead of developing them into independent self-feeders.

When I invite someone into discipleship training, I ask them for a two year commitment of their time.  Jesus spent three years with His disciples and they were together pretty much 24/7.  That is some intensive life-on-life training!  My once per week table time with disciples is a pitiful investment by comparison.

Why is it so important that we develop self-feeders?

 

Jesus is the Bread of Life

“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” [1]

John 6:57-58

 

Disciple Makers today have a plethora of material resources at our disposal for training disciples. However, if we don’t model and teach them to feed themselves on a daily basis we have failed miserably!


Pray for Self-Feeders

The following list is borrowed from “The Lost Art of Disciple Making” by Leroy Eims.

Pray your disciples will long for the Word of God.

Monday   

Pray Psalm 119:97

“Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.”

Prayer:  O Lord, may (name of disciple) love your law and meditate on it daily.

 

Tuesday 

Pray Psalm 119:29

“Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them.”

Prayer:  Lord, may (name of disciple) consider Your Word wonderful and obey it fully.”

 

Wednesday

Pray Psalm 119:131

“I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments.”

Prayer:  May (name of disciple) have this kind of a desire for Your Word.

 

Thursday  

Pray Psalm 119:140

“Thy Word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it.”

Prayer:  Lord, may (name of disciple) have a great love for Your Word.

 

Friday

Pray Psalm 119:148

“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may mediate on Thy Word.”

Prayer:  May (name of disciple) look forward to nighttime so that (name of disciple) can meditate on Your Word as (name of disciple)                                              goes to sleep.

 

Saturday     

Pray Psalm 119:162

“I rejoice at They Word, as one who finds great spoil.”

Prayer:  O Lord, help (name of disciple) rejoice in Your Word constantly.


As you can see from this example, any verse from Psalm 119 can be transformed into a prayer for your disciple/s with regard to discovering a hunger and thirst for the Word of God on a daily basis.

Without learning to feed themselves on the Word of God, they will become wholly dependent upon you and others to feed them the pure meat of the Word.  They will be crippled for the remainder of their life if they do not learn to feed themselves.

Right now I am imagining a starving person.  We have all seen the images on our television or in magazines.  The emaciation of a starving human being makes us want to look away, doesn’t it?  The same goes for a disciple of Christ who has not disciplined themselves to feed on God’s Word on a daily basis. It is the same as going without nourishment of the body for days, weeks, months on end.  It leads to death – spiritual death.

Start them on the righteous path – pray for them to be given a hunger for His Word that they will nourish themselves daily for the rest of their earthly life.

Model self-feeding for them. Share what you have feasted on during your time apart from one another and ask them to do the same.

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

How to Begin Disciple Making

“Keep the first things first.”  I have no idea who coined this phrase, but it is a good rule of thumb in disciple making.

Let’s begin by seeing how Jesus began His disciple making process:

In Luke 6:12-13 we get a big glimpse into the beginning of Jesus’ disciple making process.  THIS is the epitome of keeping the first things first!

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

Prayer is the first of the first things.

Please note in the verses above that Jesus had many disciples.  Disciples are followers.  Apostles were  those sent out as messengers with delegated authority.  Keep in mind that the goal of all disciple making efforts is that we produce disciple-making disciples.


It is critical to never forget the goal of disciple making is to make disciple-making disciples.


Jesus prayed all night long for the twelve disciples/apostles.  I don’t know about you, but I have never spent an entire night in prayer for anything.  I have however, prayed for those whom He would choose for me to disciple.  Most of the time I didn’t have a particular person in mind.  It was interesting to begin praying for that someone, or someones, without any prior knowledge of who they would be.

I have performed this process many times in my adult life and I know the seriousness involved in praying for those whom you will disciple.  These would-be disciples are not unknown to our Father, but they may be to us.  There is a divine sense of anticipation when a disciple maker prays for that someone, or someones, they will be discipling.  I know as I pray for whomever He pleases that my life will be impacted as much, if not more, than those I would be discipling.  I knew I would be making disciples, but more than this, I knew I would be exquisitely gifted with forever friends and fellow soldiers in Christ’s army.  We will spend a minimum of eighteen months together, if not longer.  We wouldn’t just meet for discipleship training, we would socialize together, fellowship together, worship together, etc.  Disciple Making is wrapping our life around the lives of those we disciple, not merely one time per week, but truly knowing one another and doing life together.

So PRAY and ask the Lord to bring someone, or a couple of someones, into your path and invite them to join you in discipleship training.  The journey you embark on together will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself, your disciples, and for His kingdom.


A few qualifications for screening discipleship candidates:

  1. Do they have a hunger and thirst for His righteousness?
  2. Do they understand the commitment they are making?  Time:  study time, memorizing scripture, Bible reading, etc.
  3. Are they willing to make the commitment?

While this list may seem limited, they are the starting point.  Lay out the time commitment up front.  We live in a very hurried culture, so make certain they understand that discipleship training will be their highest priority for the next – however long you determine.  If you use discipleship curriculum, you will know how long the commitment will be.

Happy disciple making, brothers and sisters!  May He richly bless the desire of your heart to make disciples for His kingdom.

warren-wiersbe-saved-v-discipleship-quote-02112016

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3 Requirements of Dicipleship

We know we are commanded to go and make disciples from Matthew 28:18-20, but do we know that there are requirements of discipleship?

Let us consider the requirements Jesus laid out to his disciples and the multitude in Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23.

Mark 8:34 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.”

Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.[1]

There are three demands made by Christ that qualify what discipleship is and what it costs.  Yes, there is a great cost to discipleship.

Jesus prefaced the three requirements of discipleship by saying, “If anyone would come after me…”  This literally means “If anyone desires following me these are the requirements.”

#1  Deny himself

It means to reject self, disapprove of self, to make self void, null, and stand firm against self.

Discipleship costs our very life.

All the dreams, the pursuits, the striving after our own glory must die.  We must bury the old man to make room for the new.

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest (January 16), “Have you had your “white funeral,” or are you piously deceiving your own soul? Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude, so that you can honestly proclaim, “Yes, it was then, at my ‘white funeral,’ that I made an agreement with God.”

Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

Every disciple of Christ must have a last day to self or they are not a follower of Christ at all.  They may have given intellectual ascent to Him, but they are not following Him.  Jesus demands that we deny our self – a once-for-all-time and continuing decision.  It costs a lot to give up the self, but the life that replaces it is eternal.  When we come to our last day, we will know without question when that day occurred.

If you are a disciple maker, make sure the one you disciple has experienced his or her last day.  If they haven’t, they will not mature or bear fruit.

Speaking from personal experience, I know my self was laid in the grave when I made the decision to follow Christ. I also know from experience that I have had to stuff my self back into the coffin on innumerable occasions since. This denying of the self is an ongoing act of obedience.

#2 Take up his cross

The act of taking up our cross is to daily accept that we have been crucified with Christ.  It is another form of self denial and yet it is an active acknowledgement that we will find ourselves at odds with the world we have denied. We will be misunderstood and jeered by those who are of the world.  In America we do not see beatings, imprisonment and death as Christ followers, but it does not mean that day may not be on the horizon.

Alistair Begg described cross-bearing as, “Walking in one way and not coming back. It is a one-way journey with no possibility of return. You are not your own and this is the defining mark of a true Christian.”

It is accepting that the world we left behind will not know us because they do not know Him.  The follower of Christ swears allegiance to Jesus and as a result we may suffer marks in our bodies and even death, but one thing the world cannot take from us is the eternal life we have in Jesus.

The follower (disciple) of Christ is equipped to lose his life for Jesus’ sake because he has laid his life in the gracious nail-pierced hands that purchased his eternal soul.

Are you willing to lose your life for Christ’s sake?

This is a weighty question all disciples are required to answer in the affirmative if they desire to follow Christ because Jesus says in Luke 14:27, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

All cross bearers experience a miraculous transformation either at conversion or sometime later in their walk with Christ.  It is a decisive moment of complete surrender of the self when the cross bearer picks up the cross of Christ and never looks back.

A Man of the Cross AW Tozer quote

#3 Follow Christ

Judas is the prime example of how far one can go with Jesus.  For all intentions, he looked like a disciple of Christ, he probably talked like a disciple of Christ, but his end revealed his true disposition.

Following Christ is a disposition of undivided devotion.  Your family, your friends, your work, your interests – all is nothing compared to Christ.

The High Cost of Discipleship

In The Navigators’ Design for Discipleship series, there is a question:  “Are all Christians disciples?”  In the 22 years I used the Design for Discipleship series to train disciples, this question never failed to puzzle.  The usual answer to the question was, “Who are we to judge who is a disciple and who isn’t?”

Our politically correct culture has cast a shadow over truth. However, Jesus isn’t concerned with our political correctness any more than He was concerned with political correctness in His days on earth.

Discipleship is costly.  It will cost your very life.


Has Jesus got all there is of you?

Has he got a fully surrendered life?

 

A perfect song of personal worship is “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mk 8:34-35). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.