Make Disciples (6) – who is the disciple

So Jerry Bridges emphasized that the imperatives for our sanctification follows our conviction of the indicatives of our salvation – to daily preach the Gospel to ourselves. I have shared often how every church should spend six months in a year to teach what it means to be saved; and we are saved by Grace, and sanctified by Grace.

 

“Performance is the default mode of every human”

We are ever so eager to prove ourselves, to show our commitment to obey, especially the great commission, and to recruit others (teaching them) to obey.  Even before the ten commandments were given to Moses, the Israelites committed to be obedient

Exodus 19: 8 “All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.”

Or in the NT,

Matthew 26:35 “Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.”

 

We are ever so eager to please our Lord! But can we truly please Him Who said all our good deeds are as filthy rags.

 

The Jewish people have categorized 613 commandments of God in the first five books of the Old Testament .  ((http://www.covenantpeaceministries.com/resources/Article+-+1050+New+Testament+Commands.pdf). )

And when I googled on indicatives and imperatives, the findings include “1050 New Testament Commands”    ( https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands  )

 

But I couldn’t find any literature of ‘indicatives in the NT’ (not that I know of)

We are drawn to the imperatives – as performance is the default mode of every human!

 

To contrast how vital it is to be a “disciple”, we highlight the 260 occasions the term is used in the NT (ESV) (72 in Matthew, 44x in Mark, 40x in Luke, 76x in John, 28x in Acts), compared to the 17 times the word “Christian” is assigned in Acts to followers of Christ, while the term  ‘believers’ is used  (18x)  and saints (61x) in the NT.

Surely it becomes persuasive and convincing to declare that God is looking for disciples as the term is so frequently used, rather than the term Christians or believers!

But then, if that is the case, had the apostles failed in making disciples since not many disciples were mentioned in the later period of the NT church?  Had disciples and discipleship faded away and groups are now trying to complete what the apostles failed to do?

 

So who is the disciple?  Continuing on my reading, I found the following resources helpful

 

“One of the best axioms in teaching can be expressed in this way,

Define your terms, then stick to your definitions.”

In considering the subject DISCIPLESHIP AND ITS DANGERS IN THE LAST DAYS, we must first define the term “discipleship”. What do we mean by discipleship? Here we are faced with a problem inasmuch as the term is not employed in any of the epistles of the New Testament.”

(The whole article can be found here    http://www.lifehouse.org/tracts/hgmdisipleshipanditsdangers.htm  )

 

And from  https://bible.org/seriespage/15-discipleship-its-definitions-and-dangers-matthew-231-12

The New Testament Definition of a Disciple

In the New Testament, the picture of a disciple is not as clear or simplistic as one might wish, for the terms, mathetes (disciple, learner) and akoloutheo(to follow) are used in a variety of ways.204

Not only did Jesus have His disciples, but so did John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14; 11:2; John 1:35,37, etc.), the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33), and even Moses (John 9:28).

There is great diversity among those who are identified as the disciples of Jesus in the Scriptures. John (John 6:60,66) uses the term ‘disciple’ to refer to those who are uncommitted, unbelieving followers of Jesus, motivated mainly by curiosity or impure desires. The masses who have come to faith and trusted in Jesus as their Messiah were also called disciples (John 8:30,31). Then, of course, the term was used particularly and most frequently of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:1, etc.) one of whom was His betrayer (John 6:70,71). Within the circle of the twelve was an inner circle of three: Peter, James and John (Luke 9:28). In the book of Acts, the word ‘disciple’ seems to be used synonymously with the term ‘believer’ (cf. Acts 6:1,2,7).

What is a disciple? I suspect that Mark summarizes it best in his gospel: “And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:13-15).

Who is a disciple of our Lord? Anyone who is deeply and personally committed to Jesus Christ by faith, who manifests the power and authority of our Lord, and who continues and extends His work.”

 

And from   https://bible.org/seriespage/2-understanding-meaning-term-disciple

 

DISCIPLESHIP AS A CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS

Discipleship is a call to be with, know and enjoy the Master. In this sense, the call to Biblical discipleship presupposes salvation, i.e., that a person has believed in Christ as Lord and Savior and continues to believe in Him. But discipleship is also a summons to follow Jesus and this is, at times, no easy matter. He demands exclusive, complete, and unflinching obedience to Himself. This is where his summons to discipleship is so radically different from Plato who stressed the freedom of the student from the teacher or even the Jewish religious leaders who focused more on the Torah and steered their disciples away from themselves. Jesus, on the other hand, pointed people to himself9 (and still does) and calls them to radical commitment to him. Jesus’ call to discipleship is a call to Christlikeness which includes at least three related facts: (1) the demand; (2) the added promise; and (3) the grace.

 

THE DEMAND

Jesus’ call to discipleship is an all-or-nothing summons, reaching into every area of our lives. It involves giving him preeminence over the closest of our human relationships and over the desires we have for our lives. In short, it involves becoming his servant in the world and giving your life to that end. Paradoxically we give up that which we cannot keep to gain that which we cannot lose. If we don’t, we lose all in the end (cf. Matt 16:25).

The cross was an instrument of death and well known to the Jews. The suffering was intolerable. But Jesus says we are to take it up and follow him. This will, in the nature of the case, involve self-denial. The one who picked up the cross-beam of his cross was headed down a one-way street, never to return.

The GRACE

The demand of Jesus’ call to discipleship is impossible for a human being, unaided, to fulfill. We must have resources to accomplish this kind of life. Those resources come directly from Christ and are promised to us if we abide in him. This is the point of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-11ff. He told his disciples that even though he was departing the world, he would nonetheless carry on his life and ministry through them, his chosen ones (15:16). From John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:13-14 we know that his life would be lived in and through the disciples via the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16).”

 

 

 

 

 

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Make Disciples (3) – the Imperative

In June 2016, I joined in the discussion that grace preachers did not major on the imperatives of our faith (https://wwwpilgrim.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/indicatives-and-imperatives/).  And a few days ago, I was stirred to re-visit this issue of imperatives and indicatives, associating it with discipleship and disciple-making.

This time round, I discovered that there had been much discussion on this; and it was way beyond what I know and expected.  Previously, it was like picking up a camera and and viewing this scene (scenario of indicatives and imperatives) without any focus. And as I searched and surfed on this (wow, the conversations on the I&I are awesome), my vision is beginning to sharpen (yes – beginning, still to be brought to sharp focus) on this.

So I asked myself, are the two “greats” – The Great Commandment and The Great Commission indicatives or imperatives?  I also asked others. The answer was clear.

And many movements and groups have been founded and formed to motivate and mobilize believers behind and around the Great Commission.

 

The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”Sinclair Ferguson

https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/become-who-you-are-indicatives-imperatives/

 

So in view of what Ferguson wrote, (and many others out there); have we in our love and dedication to our Lord, and to the lost;  launched off correctly, or cruised on correctly, with the indicatives anchoring and driving our imperatives?

And if the imperative to make disciples has been our motive and motivation, would it have been a case of the flesh (effort and works) striving to please God, and unconsciously building on a wrong foundation?  When I was in such a disciple-making ministry, indeed there was a sense of superiority that came the involvement in the DM activities –  more spiritual, more disciplined …. .

And now I can echo with Jared Bumpers (http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/indicatives-and-imperatives) how my moralistic (no, a superior self-righteous feeling of being different from the average church member) have set me apart from the others – a clear demonstration of self-righteousness –

“By focusing on the imperatives, the preacher (disciple maker?) unwittingly fosters a false sense of self-righteousness.”

 

Please don’t get me wrong. The exposure and training in the DM ministry has helped me to know more of the scriptures and pushed me to different and diverse situations in working out my faith. There is much merit in such ministries founded on the imperatives.

Could it have been better?

No it would have been right and authentic and proper if I had been nursed, nurtured and nourished first on the indicatives rather than the imperatives – like the Great Compassion of God in loving me, the Great Commitment of Jesus to be with me, the Great Certainty that Jesus is my Life and my Liberty, how my Great Captain and Commander is rolling out His purpose in Jesus, His plan to redeem man and accept man as a bride for the Bridegroom, and His program through the ages, and the future to fulfill all things in His Son, in Whom He is well pleased.