Being a Disciple
Abiding in The Word
As a lifelong Christian, I am in grave danger of thinking I know the words of Jesus and neglecting to study them and allow them to challenge how I live my life.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
- John 8:31 NKJV
Jesus is speaking to Jews who already believed in Him, but simply believing in Jesus does not make someone a disciple. Hearing the words of Jesus is great, but merely listening to Jesus does not make you His disciple. According to Jesus, what makes you His disciple is your willingness to abide in His word.
Jesus does not want for us to simply be familiar with His word. He is not satisfied with us just believing in Him. Jesus wants us to live and remain in His word. Jesus was the living Word according to John 1 and He calls us to live in His word, to remain in His word.
Jesus continues on the next verse
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
- John 8:32 NKJV
Knowing the truth and being set free by it are also directly related to abiding in the words of Jesus, and being His disciple. According to Jesus knowing the truth does not come from simply hearing/reading the word, but rather from living it! (I have some posts that expand on the topic of abiding, The Simple Answer, Hidden in My Heart, Speaking of Love, and Tutti Frutti)
The Ordinance of Humility
This weekend we are having a communion service at our local church. Part of the service includes the Ordinance of Humility or foot washing. Some may wonder why we continue to do this since all of us arrive at the church by car and most of our feet are quite clean. I go into more detail on communion and foot washing on this post. Here, I would like to emphasize the discipleship dimension of the foot washing.
So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
- John 13:12-17 NKJV (bold mine)
Being a disciple is not only about knowing. It goes beyond simply believing. The process begins with knowing, then believing, but you’re not a disciple until you begin doing, imitating, copying, living as Jesus lived. Studying, learning, hearing, are very important, but only as far as it leads to doing. Jesus reserves the blessings to those who not only know but also do what He did. Jesus is our example, and He wants us to do what He did, to emulate His lifestyle, to continue the mission.
We are to hear/read the words of Jesus, more than that we are called to do/live the words of Jesus, to follow His example.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
- Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV (bold mine)
Jesus now calls us to go and make disciples, baptizing, teaching people to live in accordance with all that Jesus commanded. Jesus promises to be with us as we go and do what He has called us to do. As Jesus was our example, we now must be the example for others. As Jesus lived according to the word of God, as Jesus was the incarnate Word of God, we are to live our lives in such a way that we reveal Jesus, that we reveal the word of God to those around us. Jesus promises to be with us while we do this!
Jesus’ disciples, and children of Israel, in general, were experts in messing up, constantly missing the point, oftentimes misunderstanding and falling short of what God desired for them. The disciples were often confused by Jesus’s teaching, they were continually messing up. That means there is hope for you and me.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
- Mark 1:14-15 NKJV
Jesus talked about many things, and all of them together give us a better understanding of the Kingdom of God. People misunderstood Jesus partly because they misunderstood what the kingdom of God was all about. We have the same danger today. So many think of the kingdom of God as something that happens after you die. Others think of it as something that will be established in the distant future. And though the gospel of the kingdom of God, does emphasize a hope after death and the second coming of Jesus, Jesus preached the kingdom of God also as having a very practical impact in our lives presently.
The best way to preach the kingdom of God that will be established when Jesus comes again is by giving people a glimpse of it now! If people believe that the kingdom of God is playing harps in a cloud, they may not be very interested in it at the present. But what if they realized that the kingdom of God is about community and helping each other and selflessness and a focus on the other?
What if people experienced, right now, in this sinful world, that the kingdom of God is about humility and service?
In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
-Matthew 6:9-10 NKJV (bold mine)
The model prayer begins with a request for the kingdom of God to come, and with a description of what that would look like, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus prayed for a re-establishment of the kingdom of God. This means making God king once again. Here on earth just like God is king in heaven.
Like the disciples of Jesus, we miss the point. We fall short. We rebel. We want God’s kingdom to come later. Right now I want to live for my kingdom, when I die then I’ll enjoy God’s kingdom.
Jesus emphasized the kingdom. He lived in such a way that He brought that future to the present. There will be no more death! So He raised the dead. There will be no more disease, so He healed the sick! Jesus lived a life of service that revealed to those around Him the realities of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ ministry also included, preaching and worship at church.
Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them,“I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.
- Luke 4:42-44
But it did not stop there. Preaching and teaching and worship are integral parts of ministry and of the kingdom of God, but it cannot be all there is to it.
When Jesus had communion/the Lord’s Supper/the last supper with His disciples, He explained that the bread represents His body (broken for us) (Matthew 26; Mark 14, Luke 22, I Cor. 11). We also know that the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1.22-23; 1 Corinthians 12.12-13; Romans 12.3-5; Colossians 1.24). It should go without saying, especially based on the bible texts just mentioned, that the church us, you and me, not the building itself.
Therefore, we ought to break ourselves in the service of others. How often our pride and our comfort keep us from preaching the kingdom of God?
Preaching the second coming includes making it a reality now. The kingdom of God is not just a future, but also a present reality. We can be a bridge of peace, a sliver of hope, a loving shoulder for someone to cry on, a listening ear.
Perhaps many do not show any interest in the kingdom of God because they have no idea of what it is all about. Heaven sounds boring, and their sinful life here looks exciting! Do you see the challenge? What if people could see the Kingdom of Heaven as the answer to all their earthly problems? What if they can experience love and acceptance and guidance and wisdom and service and true joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding here, in this world, would that not make them long for the ultimate establishment of the kingdom of God?
What if we took the time to abide in the words of Jesus, to live them, to live a life that gives glimpses of the kingdom of God to all those around us?
In order to make disciples, we must first be disciples. In order to be disciples we must abide in the words of Jesus. There we learn to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). When we seek our kingdom we lose everything, but when we seek the kingdom of God, abiding in His word, we gain everything.
Unless I abide in the words of Jesus, unless I become a true disciple, unless I want God’s kingdom to be established and His will to be done in my life, on earth as it is in heaven, I will never make any disciples.
What does it mean to live in the kingdom of God?
Call your enemy, offer forgiveness. This will be the future, in heaven, no enemies, so start to make peace now.
Give people around you a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven will be like. Love your wife, love your kids. Make sure they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are loved!
Give for the benefit of another, without expecting anything in return. Just to show them what the kingdom of God will be like when Jesus returns.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying:“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
- Matthew 13:31-32 NKJV
The kingdom of heaven starts small, like a seed planted in your heart that becomes a huge tree. It grows and takes over your life and provides shelter for those around you. Kingdom living makes you a light wherever you go, it makes you salt (Matthew 5:13-14), it makes people want to be near you, it also causes people to hate you (John 15:18-25).
When you approach others to bless them please don’t have an agenda. Simply give them a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus often healed and said nothing afterward. Jesus did a lot of teaching, and people came to listen to Him, but listening to Him was not a prerequisite to receiving healing. People will ask and they will listen when they are ready because they are hungry for it. Not because you forced it upon them.
Live like Jesus lived, give others a glimpse of what heaven will be like.