I’ve been talking here about exchanging the negative, destructive patterns in our lives for the grace-filled patterns of the Kingdom of God. When we are born again we all enter our new relationship with Jesus carrying excess baggage we’ve hung onto from our old life before we knew Him. We learned certain ways of getting along in the world, many of those based on painful experiences. Rejection produces patterns of self-protection, fear of failure produces patterns self-promotion, and so on. Jesus offers to exchange those patterns based on self-effort for new patterns founded in His grace.
Discipleship is the basic grace-pattern of the Kingdom of God. We see it first in the relationship between the first couple and God. God could have created Adam and Eve with full knowledge of what they were called to do and how to do it. Instead, God gave them a general overview of their assignment at the start, but the kind of guidance that would enable their success was dependent upon daily talks with God in the garden. Adam was told to tend the garden, but how far apart do you plant the cabbages? and how deep do you plant the tulip bulbs? and how many watermelon plants can you grow in a single mound? That time every day when God visited them in the garden was pretty important! Adam and Eve were given the opportunity to be discipled by God, and then to make disciples of their own children.
Adam and Eve were not obedient disciples, but that does not negate the truth that God designed men and women to be discipled and to make disciples. Down through the ages, men and women who walked out the plan of God for their lives, made disciples and trained them to fulfill their own God-given plan. Consider Moses with Joshua, and Elijah with Elisha. These were mighty men of God who raised up their successors to go even further than they did in advancing God’s Kingdom in the earth.
Then came Jesus, the greatest disciple and the most effective discipler of all time. Jesus said, “I can do nothing of Myself, unless it is something I see the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19-20). Jesus broke the pattern of rebellion established for man by Adam and Eve and chose to follow instead the pattern of the Father. He embraced the discipleship of the Father rather than going His own way as Adam and Eve had done. When Satan tempted Him, Jesus relied upon the Father and His word. When people had needs, He relied upon the Father to heal, deliver, comfort, teach, confront, correct, and exhort through Him. When He had needs, He relied upon the Father, drew aside to hear from and talk to the Father. To know what to do and where to go every minute of every day, Jesus was totally dependent upon the Father.
And Jesus made disciples. For three years, twelve men plus the “ministering women” followed Him and watched Him. They saw how He lived, they soaked up His presence and His way of life daily, they were taught by Him, had the scriptures explained by Him, and they gradually came to imitate Him as He imitated the Father. Through Jesus they came to realize that they too could “do nothing of themselves”, so, after Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven, they waited obediently in Jerusalem to receive the promised Holy Spirit. They knew they needed the power of God and intimate, daily communion with Him through the Holy Spirit in order to see what God was doing in their day and to allow Him to work through them.
And those disciples, as they walked out their lives, made more disciples. They repeated the pattern of Jesus and took people with them wherever they went, allowing those companions to get to know them, to see how they lived, to see their relationship with Jesus, to see their dependence upon the Holy Spirit. They preached and taught publicly, but they also had disciples to whom they privately explained the ways of God more thoroughly.
Paul and Timothy’s relationship is the most talked about discipling relationship in the New Testament. We don’t know exactly how Timothy first became a disciple of Paul, but we do know that Timothy was with Paul to follow his “teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Timothy was allowed to come in close and get to know Paul and to see how he responded under pressure. Paul’s life and ministry discipled Timothy to become a man of God himself.
I hope you will join me at Living Way Church in Greensboro at the Wellspring Day Seminar on June 23 where we will be talking about some of these discipling relationships and what they mean to us today. Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples …” so it would seem that His is a pattern worth repeating! The seminar will begin at 10:00 AM with worship led by Jessica Cotten followed by my teaching. Then we will have lunch together (bring your own bag lunch and the ladies of Living Way Church will provide drinks for us). After lunch, we’ll divide into small groups where we will discuss how to implement the pattern of Jesus in our own lives. At the end of the day we will regather the full group for a question and answer time, worship, and personal ministry, all ending by 4:00 PM. All the details may be accessed by clicking on the RSVP button below. You can also register there (www.wellspringwomen.com), which will help us with planning. The $25 registration fee will be collected at the door and may be paid by cash, check, or credit card. I hope to see you there. It’s going to be a great day!
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