Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Decisional Christianity and the Call to Discipleship

Friday, June 15, 2007

Decisional Christianity and the Call to Discipleship

35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. 43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:35-51).

A person’s Christianity is a history of thousands upon thousands of personal decisions of the will. One’s Christianity begins with a decision to believe that Jesus died for our sins, propitiated God’s wrath for the “sins of the whole world” (John 2:2), that He was buried, was resurrected and ascended victorious over death opening a “door” (Himself; John 10:1-9) into the New Genesis to “whosoever” that was willing to believe the gospel, confess Him as Lord (God) and call on His Name to save him (Romans 10:9-13).

The next decision that the believer is to be led to make is the decision to be baptized by immersion. This is the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the decision to be a committed student of Truth and a consecrated, sanctified follower of Jesus Christ. Baptism involved a decision to begin dying to the old, carnal way of life led by the “old man” and a commitment to “walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:1-13) as led by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Decisional Christianity is clearly the pattern of orthopraxy that we find in the gospels, the book of Acts and in the New Covenant Epistles. In simple words, we find this pattern of decisional Christianity portrayed by Christ in His preaching and teaching ministry over and over again in the gospels. We find this decisional Christianity portrayed by the Apostles over and over again in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. We also find this decisional Christianity portrayed over and over again throughout the Epistles and even the book of Revelation.

Why then is this decisional Christianity so resisted, ridiculed and denigrated by some within Christianity? Decisional Christianity is resisted, ridiculed and denigrated because some professing Christians hold to such an extreme view of God’s sovereignty that God must be the cause of every detail “under the Sun” or God cannot be in control. In this view, nothing is determined or caused by man’s will. Everything is determined and caused by God’s will and God’s will cannot be resisted or denied. What God wills must happen. There can be no synergism whatsoever in this dynamic.

John 1:35 begins the first day of the three year ministry of Jesus Christ. From this point forward, it is a count-down to Golgotha. Jesus has three years to create a continuum of discipleship by training twelve men and leading them through a number of progressive decisions (progressive sanctification).

It is critically important to understand the disciples Jesus chose to train as the Apostles were already disciples of John the Baptist (1:35). That means they were already saved according to the Old Covenant. They were believers in the promised Messiah and were looking for His coming (1:41). This is important in order to understand what is taking place in this portion of Scripture. These men are not getting saved and leading others to salvation. All those they brought to Jesus were already saved like they were saved. This text is about becoming disciples of Jesus and the commitment involved with becoming a follower of Jesus.

Many people get saved who never become Christians. Being a Christian is defined by the practice of the teaching of Scripture. The whole body of Scriptural teaching is referred to as “the faith.” Once a person is saved by trusting in the finished sacrifice of Christ Jesus in His full payment of the death sentence substitutionally for all mankind, that person is eternally secure in that salvation. Getting saved is the easy part. It costs the believer nothing. It is a gift. Getting saved is a simple matter.

“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

On the other hand, becoming a disciple of Jesus (Christian) is another matter all together. Becoming a disciple begins with a decision to follow Jesus and live according to His teachings. Salvation is a new creation. Salvation is a new beginning. Salvation is becoming a “born again” child of God. Discipleship is parenting that newborn babe in Christ to full spiritual maturity.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

What does it mean to be a disciple? When Jesus called these men to become disciples, He was calling them to two things. He was calling them to training and He was calling them to the work of evangelism (Mark 1:17). Making disciples of these men meant a long, slow process of training them to be soul winning disciple makers. This is why Christ ordained and established local churches. They were to be training centers for disciples to do the work of evangelism and to maintain the continuum of disciple makers.

“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

John the Baptist is the typical soul winner doing the work of evangelism. He led people to repent of dead works and sin, faith in the coming Messiah, baptized those who were saved and began to disciple them. It was not his purpose to gather disciples for himself. His purpose was to gather and prepare disciples to follow Jesus Christ. The success of his ministry was determined at the time his disciples recognized who Jesus was and began to follow Jesus by doing what Jesus did. John the Baptist’s ministry was successful when he did his work well enough to make himself dispensable. This is the goal of every true disciple maker.

As a typical disciple maker, we should not overlook the fact that John the Baptist was faithful unto death. The central focus of a disciple is faithfulness to Jesus. When faithfulness to Jesus becomes the priority of one’s life that is the point at which that individual becomes a disciple of Jesus.

A disciple is a follower of Jesus (John 1:37).

“Followed” is from the Greek word akoloutheo (ak-ol-oo-theh'-o) meaning to walk the same road. In the narrowest sense, it means to walk in another’s footprints or to walk side by side, mirroring one another. To be a disciple of Jesus is to seek to replicate Who Jesus is in one’s life, to be Christ-like. To be a disciple of Jesus is to incorporate His teaching into one’s life to the degree of complete transformation. This is the goal of the process of spiritual growth. The disciple studies to know the Word of God.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

The disciple yields his life to the indwelling Holy Spirit to allow Him to live that learned truth.

“11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:11-13).

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

The disciple exemplifies the life of Christ to the lost world as the Holy Spirit lives the truth of God’s Word through his life.

Being a disciple is a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week commitment (John 1:39).

Being a disciple is the merging of the Christ-life into every aspect of our everyday life. As a disciple of Jesus, there can be no separation of one’s life into the sacred and the secular. Disciples do not merely set apart blocks of time to be Christian. Disciples eat, breathe and live Jesus. If there is some aspect or area of your life in which your Christianity is not fully expressed, that area either needs to be abandoned or utilized for Christ. The only division in a believer’s life is the division between learning truth and living truth. This is what is known as spiritual growth and what defines spiritual growth. That division is like the space between the rungs of a ladder in the progress of upward mobility. It is an area of transition from knowing to doing. Growth is measured by the transition from knowing to doing.

Becoming a disciple is a matter of a free-will choice. However, that does not excuse any believer from the obligation of being a disciple. Salvation is not conditioned on becoming a disciple. Salvation is the first baby step in trusting in Christ. Discipleship is learning to walk. No parent would think it normal if their child did not learn to walk, feed himself, take care of his personal hygiene and eventually grow to the place he could support himself and live without constant supervision. Yet, somehow, professing Christians do not think anything abnormal about a person who never grows spiritually, who never tells anyone how to be saved and who never learns to study the Word of God and build a theological foundation of living truths into his life.

When new believers make a commitment to follow Jesus, it must be an intelligent decision based upon a free will choice. They may not understand all the ramifications of that decision, but they make it nonetheless. At each level of their training, a higher level of commitment will be expected. Along this process of growth and at each higher level of commitment, they are allowed another opportunity to make free will choices to continue. Many of those that followed Jesus chose not to follow Him any longer at these higher levels of spiritual commitment and sacrificial expectations.

“60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:60-69).

This is the common testing of true disciples of Jesus and this testing determines who Jesus will use and the degree He can use them. There is one simple question every disciple should ask himself at each level, is Jesus really Who He claims to be? It is always a matter of faith. If Jesus is Who He claims to be, nothing else matters.

Everyday of every week of our lives, Jesus is putting professing disciples through these tests. Pass the test by accepting the higher level of commitment and you move to a higher plane of spiritual growth and a closer walk with Jesus (and a higher degree of responsibilities). Jesus does not expect you to do anything He does not think you capable of doing when empowered by His Holy Spirit. The issue is not a matter of ability, but a matter of the will. When Jesus asks a disciple to take on some area of ministry, there is only one right answer: I will! It is not a matter that you know how to do what He asks you to do. You may need additional training in order to do the job. It is simply a matter of committing to whatever is necessary to do what is asked.

Jesus calls every believer to discipleship. That call is a call to train and a call to work. The training is incorporated in doing the work. Have you accepted the call of Jesus to discipleship? If you have, you are involved in some on-hand training in a local church to train you in an outreach ministry. If that is not the case, you have not accepted the call of Jesus to discipleship. Every disciple in the Bible was involved in being trained through participation training. Knowing was translated into doing. That is the only kind of discipleship the Bible speaks about. If that is what you are involved in, you are a disciple. If not, you need to begin.

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