A Quest for the Restoration of Biblical Discipleship Part 3: Teaching them to Obey

March 17, 2013

Matthew 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Some may think this scripture is over used. Yet these are some of the last words of our LORD and must be heeded with a faithfulness that shows our respect and honor for his authority in our lives! Jesus spent around three years with his ragtag crew and formed in them a desire for God’s will over their own will; an obedient heart to love the truth of God’s word and an understanding of the incredible love God has for all mankind. These men willingly gave themselves to the cause and so the movement of Jesus the Messiah began to unfold. Jesus carefully plotted his course and never lived without his mission on his mind- Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10.

In his book The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman states; “No one was excluded from his precious purpose. His love was universal. Make no mistake about it. He was “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). God wanted all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth… Contrary to our superficial thinking, there never was a distinction in his mind between home and foreign missions. To Jesus it was all world evangelism. His life was ordered by his objective. Everything he did and said was a part of the whole pattern… This was his motivating vision governing his behavior. His steps were ordered by it. Mark it well. Not for one moment did Jesus lose sight of his goal. That is why it is so important to observe the way Jesus maneuvered to achieve his objective. The Master disclosed God’s strategy for world conquest. He had confidence in the future precisely because he lived according to that plan in the present. There was nothing haphazard about his life- no wasted energy, not an idle word. He was on business for God (Luke 2:49). He lived, he died, and he rose again according to schedule. Like a general plotting his course of battle, the Son of God calculated to win. He could not afford to take a chance. Weighing every alternative and variable factor in human experience, he conceived a plan that would not fail.” That plan is you; a true sold-out disciple, willing to go into the whole world- even to the ends of the earth to see to the end the plan of the Master.

Lucy Vasquez Placing Membership
Welcoming Lucy Vasquez to Orlando! From left: Elizabeth Eckels, Lucy Vasquez, Helen and Matt Sullivan

Jesus could have spent all of his time healing the sick, finding housing for the homeless and feeding the hungry and yet the majority of his efforts were wrapped up in teaching his men and transferring his heart to 12 unschooled and ordinary men! He could have invented the internet and TV and used mass communication to get to the whole world. He did not. He chose men as his method of winning the world! Men like you and me! If you doubt Jesus’ plan, I challenge you to consider that Jesus, the man, God in the flesh could have come up with any number of other ways to win the world. He chose making disciples…one at a time and then sticking with them “teaching them to obey”. This challenges you and me to have a conviction that one by one we will make disciples of all nations. We will then baptize these disciples. We will and must then disciple these disciples to maturity in Christ so that they too can go and make disciples. Christ is to be formed in the heart of these men and so first must be formed in those doing the “discipling”.

In order for the perfect plan of Jesus to work- men must obey Jesus. So scary is the thought that the very plan of God’s son can fail if men do not imitate, hold on to and follow the heart of Jesus…the heart to obey. John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. Obedience is the very heart of a disciple of Jesus. He obeyed his Father and we are to obey him. In 1 John 5:2-5 The Bible says; This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. How are you doing with the Lord?

Personally I spend the majority of my time discipling, teaching and training the eight men God has put in my life. Although I am completely broken and wrestle daily with my sinful nature, I am called to obey Jesus. My role is to “teach them to obey” and so their role too will be the same with their men. The greatest command is; “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40. If we would but start here, our men will be amazing! Our churches will be amazing and the job will get done in our generation! The issue is- will you obey and will they obey? The plan is not flawed- it is perfect. Only through the power of God will we get the job done…we are so weak and imperfect and yet once again, Jesus chose men as his method of winning the world. Are you discipling (the gerund of “disciple” which implies action toward being and living as a disciple while then transferring this heart to others)? Are you getting discipled? If not, why not? God has called each and every disciple to the same standard. You can and must obey in order to be a disciple of Jesus. If you are discipling others, are you discipling them to Christ or to a method? Are you teaching actions without getting to their heart? Jesus’ heart was all in, 100% in love with his Father. Are you and your disciples like that, like Jesus?

AMS-East Open Mic Night
The AMS Network held their first Open Mic Night this past Friday! The talent was amazing! From left – Allen Copper rapping, Will Davenport singing & playing ukulele and Carmen Lewandowski singing in Spanish!

Recently I was on the phone with several men who informed me with sad and discouraged voices that their churches no longer practice discipling as seen in the Bible. There is a kind of “voluntary” discipleship among a few of the leaders (only when they really want it) and yet no expectation for the congregation to obey. There is disorder, distraction and disarray that are destroying their congregation. The only type of “discipling” which happens is to the person calling for repentance in the congregation. He is told (discipled) to stop offending other members and judging them. Personal righteousness and accountability are off the table as “everyone does as he sees fit”. Leaders are literally afraid of the members and so seek to appease them. Church discipline has gone by the wayside…unless you are being “forced” to stop discipling others.  No longer taught is the heart to imitate, to follow another man as he follows Christ nor is there the clarion call from the pulpit for “teaching them to obey”. Gone is the vision to go to all nations…so a sad result is now there are churches stagnant and unmoving. We must not only deeply value discipleship, we must have deep convictions to “hold to the teaching of Jesus” no matter what men may say!

A day is coming when men once again (just like 2003 for many of us) will not put up with sound doctrine but will seek to dismantle what Jesus taught as so fundamental to his movement- discipleship which teaches men to obey. Will you stand firm or fade away under the pressure of “itching ears” and false teachers seeking to scratch that itch? Without your own personal conviction to embrace discipleship, teach others to obey and be taught to obey- your faith and your church are on the line. God has added 41 to our number in just 7 months! That is 110% growth! Amazing as that is we are at risk because so many of our members are brand new disciples and may not yet have the conviction that discipleship is Jesus’ only plan to win the world. Some of our older “remnant” or “veteran” disciples may be tired and feel worn out because discipling another to Christ is like raising a child. If you are not dependent on God, His word and the power of the Holy Spirit every day you will give up your convictions and look for an “easier” path…though there is none. Luke 18:6-8 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

How do we transfer this heart to obey and to teach them to obey? Understand first that it is a heart transfer and not an information transfer. Many men seek to learn the ministry through seminary or a series of books they have read. Jesus simply was “with” his men. Mark 3:13-14 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve-designating them apostles-that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach… A heart transfer happens when we are with our disciples in many types of situations. These are not times to nitpick but to model Christ-like behavior. These men studied the life, doctrine and the person of Jesus Christ and so became like him. So inspiring are the words of Paul after 25 years in Christ he still proclaims, Philippians 3:7-21 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ…

Matt Sullivan Preaching
A throwback Matt Sullivan preaching the Word after zealously tagging for the Lord!

Jesus spent incredible amounts of time with his disciples and Paul was the same. The very heart of Jesus is seen in the impact Paul had on his disciples. 1 Corinthians 4:14-17, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 2:19-23, 2 Timothy 2:1-2 and Colossians 4:7-14 all show us the power of day to day discipling in the lives of the men who Paul trained. These few men changed the world! They trusted the one and only plan Jesus had…men, discipled to become just like him.

He stoops down to make us great,

Matt Sullivan

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