Practical Discipleship, Part 1


June 15, 2018


It was my intention to begin a series today on Resurrection From the Dead, and walking and living in Resurrection Life, but I’m not quite finished yet with that writing.  Thought I’d take a break for the next couple of weeks and discuss something that we’ve talked about throughout the years on a few occasions – the practical nature of discipleship, and how it differs from conventional teaching in the body of Christ today.


One of the things that seems abundantly clear is that there has been an excessive focus within the structured church world on getting people born again and missing entirely the disciplined walk with the Lord Jesus Christ that must commence immediately upon making the initial commitment.


The Great Commission (as we are so inclined to call it) is not a commission from the Lord to get people "saved."  Contrary to some of the popular translations, Jesus did not simply say, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations....."  His command was that we go forth and "disciple" all nations."


The NASB translates the Greek text accurately, putting it like this: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:18-20)


There's a huge difference between simply preaching and teaching, and "discipling."  The truth of this understanding really began to spread throughout the body of Christ during the Charismatic Renewal during the early 1970's.  I remember when -- at a World Map Conference -- Bob Mumford was the scheduled speaker and he stepped aside for Juan Carlos Ortiz to share the remarkable successes of the "discipleship" ministry Juan Carlos was seeing in Argentina.


As has been and continues to be true, whenever real truth begins to be propagated within the body of Christ and Christians begin to grow and mature and become a genuine threat to Satan's lies and deception, he seeks to contaminate the message with extremes and thereby render the truth either unpalatable to most Christians or laced with so much error that it becomes totally rejected.  I watched this take place following Juan Carlos' sharing.


What worked spectacularly for the Argentinean Revival (as it has been sometimes referred) with the teaching and practical applications of the disciplined walk in Christ Jesus mostly failed in North America.  It wasn't that what Juan Carlos Ortiz shared was wrong, or that his methods and applications were wrong.  The problem was that the message and applications of discipleship as integrated into Argentinean culture and life simply did not translate well into American (or more accurately, "westernized") lifestyles and culture.


Many of my pastor friends attempted to apply Juan Carlos' methodologies within their American churches with explosive and disastrous results.  It became known within this country as "the Discipleship Controversy," and because of the failures and damaged lives that resulted from the misapplication of the truth, large segments of the body of Christ rejected the whole idea of being discipled.


Just because South American methodologies mostly failed in North America doesn't mean that the message of discipleship and discipling was or is wrong!  Far from it!  Each part of the world -- OK, let's make it more personal -- each and every segment of society has a uniqueness to it that requires a practical understanding and application which makes it work.


Let's talk for a minute about some of the practical aspects and principles of true discipleship.  The whole idea of a "disciple" is found in the core word: discipline.  A disciple is one who lives his or her life in a disciplined manner obeying the tenets and principles set forth by the mentor or the teacher or leader under whom they've submitted.


Living a disciplined life is a whole lot more than simply refraining from certain activities you might otherwise enjoy, or engaging in a certain careful and controlled lifestyle.  The "disciple" learns to adopt the mindset, the thought processes, the character and the nature of his/her mentor or instructor.


What was it that happened to Peter when he stood outside warming himself by the fire while Jesus was being interrogated by those who shortly thereafter crucified Him?  (See Matthew 26:69-73)  First a young girl says to Peter, "You were with Jesus of Galilee."  Shortly thereafter another young woman says to those standing by, "This man was also with Jesus of Nazareth."


A short period of time ensues during which conversation takes place between all those gathered together -- conversation which includes Peter.  Pretty soon some of those participating in the conversation stop and say to him, "You certainly are one of them.  Your manner of speaking clearly identifies you.”


You get the idea, I'm sure.  Years ago when I was ministering with Dwain McKenzie at Long Beach Christian Center, Dwain and I periodically participated in conferences at Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California.  Anyone who's been around Jack Hayford for any length of time knows that he has a very distinctive speaking style and expressions you can identify anywhere.


We often chuckled when we heard some of the elders or young men he was mentoring in ministry.  If you didn't see them and simply heard them speak, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to Jack.  They had his speaking style down to a "T" along with many of his phrases or expressions.


That's how it was with Peter.  He'd been discipled by the Lord Jesus Christ.  His mannerisms were affected.  He carried on a conversation like Jesus did.  He spoke like Jesus.  He had yet to be filled with Holy Spirit, however, and as a consequence lacked the boldness that comes with that infilling.


Because Jesus was being accused before Caiaphas of blasphemy, Peter's fears kicked in and he was afraid of being known in this court setting as an associate or friend of Jesus, or being one of His disciples.  In order, therefore, to convince the bystanders with whom he'd been carrying on a conversation that he was not part of Jesus' disciples, he did something that was so uncharacteristic of Jesus as to express himself first with an oath, swearing [on his mother's grave?] that he didn't even know Jesus.  Then after being identified for the third time as one who was normally seen with Jesus, he tried to convince his accusers with the use of cursing and vulgar language.


But Jesus' mannerisms, His speech and His countenance were known for peace, for authority and (mostly) for exceptional gentleness.  Peter may have temporarily put off those who questioned his association, but Jesus' mentoring, His teaching, His instruction and His discipling of Peter had made real change.  When Peter heard the cock crow, it shook him to the core of his being.  He realized that he had done just what Jesus had said he would do: he denied Jesus three times.  And Peter couldn't stick around.  He went out and wept bitter, remorseful tears over his betrayal of Jesus.


You see, Jesus had become Peter's best friend.  Yes, Jesus was Peter's Lord and Savior.  Yes, Jesus was the One who had sent him out to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  And Peter had seen direct, measurable, tangible results and consequences of functioning in the very onoma, the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That ministry had affected his household.  His wife's mother had been raised from her sick bed, made completely whole.


Remember when Jesus sent the 70 out, two by two, and told them to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons"?  Then Jesus said to them, "freely ye have received, freely give."  (Matthew 10:8)


The Greek text uses a fascinating word which our KJV translators rendered as "received."  The Greek lambano is one of those picture words which conveys a whole lot more than our simplified "received."  This word communicates the transfer or impartation of some idea, some truth, some concept by the one (in this case, Jesus) discipling.  That transfer or impartation is then seized upon, laid claim to and possessed by the one receiving the impartation.


Does that make it clearer for you?


Then let's take this the next step.  One cannot disciple or bring under certain discipline if one is not himself under discipline.  Consider the centurion who came to Jesus in desperation on behalf of his servant.  Pay attention to the very particular wording in this example in the Word.


Luke 7:2-10: "And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.  And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.  And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:  For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.  Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:  Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.  For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.  When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."


First of all, the centurion comes to Jesus recognizing that He (Jesus) is under Father's authority.  He understands what being "under authority" actually means, namely, that he willingly has subjected himself to the authority of his superiors.  He lives a life of absolute discipline.  As a result, he himself has been commissioned and placed in authority over 100 soldiers who are "under authority" to him as their superior.


The centurion recognizes that Jesus operates under the authority of Father with Father's commissioning, and that with that place of submission comes the full backing and commitment of Heaven to support whatever command He gives.  He has both seen and heard of the miracles that Jesus does and knows that He could never do those things without first having been commissioned and authorized by direct command.


This is perhaps the most basic and fundamental aspect of "discipling."  The one who disciples others must first be under the authority of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The discipler must have personally seen, heard and -- through personal experience -- lived and walked the discipline of Father through Jesus Christ, operating through the power and enabling of Holy Spirit.


In the past 70+ years of walking with the Lord, it has been my pleasure to lead many to salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I've lost track of the number of people laid hands on to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the attendant signs, and couldn't begin to tell you how many people I've baptized in water.  That's all well and good, but the command of Jesus is a whole lot more than that.  The issue isn't how many folks I've led to the New Birth: the issue is how many I've successfully discipled in such a way that they duplicate the same presence, authority and power of Holy Spirit manifested in and through me.  That number, I'm sorry to say, is a whole lot smaller than the number of those with whom I've prayed for salvation.


Evangelism is a whole lot more than preaching and leading souls to the Lord.  Evangelism -- at least Jesus' definition of evangelism -- incorporates living a disciplined life under the command of Holy Spirit.  True evangelism involves becoming involved with those whom you lead to Jesus and discipling them so that the same Word of Life, the same Word of Faith, the same Word of Love exhibited in your life is duplicated and manifested in them.


Make sense?  Good!  Let me share a personal experience -- one from 65 years ago for the sake of illustration.


As a five-year-old, I lived, breathed, walked and talked Jesus.  My father was my discipler at the time, and I wanted in the worst way to duplicate the pattern I saw in him.  I preached, testified, cajoled and did everything I could to persuade my friends and playmates that they needed to commit themselves to Jesus Christ


It was the winter of 1947.  We lived at the time in Nome, Alaska.  It was a particularly brutal winter with temperatures at or near 40 below zero for a period of several weeks.  The winter had begun with a huge snowfall and subsequent winds had piled the snow in drifts so high you could literally climb up on the roof of our church building.


Of course the blowing wind, coupled with the cold temperatures, made the snow rock hard; and that made it perfect for a bunch of kids who wanted to make snow caves, igloos, or whatever.  My brother and I, however, had a different plan.  We borrowed one of Dad's hand saws and cut out a room roughly 8 X 8 X 5 in a huge snow bank that swept over our house and church.  Naturally, we cut out a neat door and window.  We followed that with cutting blocks of hardened snow which made a perfect bench, an altar, a podium to preach from; and, presto! Mom gave us some candles to use for light, and we had ourselves a little church!  Now, don't laugh.  It was serious business to us.


The first order of business was to gather our friends and playmates to "have church."  Howie (my brother) led the singing.  I preached a 15 or 20-minute salvation message and had "an altar call" just like Dad's.  It wasn't a game, and I wasn't pretending.  This took place during a three-year period between the ages of four and seven when I had constant visitations from angels.  Mom had taught me to read by reading the Bible, and by this time I knew it fairly well -- at least I knew the pertinent parts of it as far as salvation and baptism were concerned.


You see, I was learning from Dad's example and the pattern he'd set for me.  He was my discipler.  Three of my playmates that day responded to the salvation message and knelt at that snow altar to receive Jesus Christ.  Their response was real and from that day forward I continued to teach them from the Word.  I could only teach, of course, those things that were real to me, but my objective was to transmit them into the lives of my three friends.


Well, at forty below zero, you don't baptize anyone in water, so you wait until spring when water (especially after an abundant winter like that one) abounds.  Seems like it was in May or early June when the temperatures were between 40 and 50 degrees (above zero, of course) and deep mud puddles flourished everywhere.  (When Dad built the church in Nome he didn't include a baptismal tank, so we just did the logical thing.)  By now I had passed my sixth birthday.  My friends were ready to be baptized, and we found a suitable mud puddle where they could be immersed.  We didn't think about changes of clothes or anything like that.  I walked into the water and, one by one, they came in after me to be baptized.  I never knew whether they got in trouble with their folks for coming home soaking wet in their clothes, but we all knew that we had taken the proper steps as far as the Lord was concerned!  (OK, no fair laughing!  Like I said, it was real and we were serious!)


In the years that followed, all three of those first converts went on to become strong Christian believers, and one of them went on into pastoral ministry.  It was my first experience at discipling, and I followed the pattern that my discipler, Dad, had set for me.


Let me wrap up this Coffee Break with a simple and practical definition of discipleship.

To disciple (according to Jesus' command) means to essentially duplicate the Jesus in you in someone else.  There's more to this picture, but I think I'll leave it there for today.


See you again in a next Friday.


"Ministry by definition is the spiritual work or service of any Christian or a group of Christians. One of the greatest revelations we can ever embrace is that whatever we do in life, is ministry, because the light of God in us and through us never goes dim. Every job, every assignment, our family, our leisure and whatever pathway that the Holy Spirit may lead us, is ministry."   (Robert Ricciardelli)


Blessings on you!


In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific.  That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#.  We are now making these gatherings available by Skype.  If you wish to participate by video on Skype, my Skype ID is regner.capener.  If you miss the live voice call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later.  The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.


Blessings on you!



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