The Discipling Norm
While the term, “disciple,” is coupled with “knowing,” and the two terms speak to the concept of leadership development in the kingdom of God, Jesus is more interested in the level of commitment to which His disciples than mere instruction. Discipling is more about learning a lifestyle through shared spiritual experience than graduating from a course of study. Information transfer would be discussed with different terms including teacher and student in terms of acquiring a measurable body of knowledge.
We know that knowledge by itself produces pride: having acquired knowledge, we can determine on our own what to do with that knowledge. “Teachable” in the mouth of Jesus isn’t about intellectual exercise measured by “do you remember what I said” as much as it is about “the man that hears what I say and does it.”
So “teachable” as a discipling basic is about becoming a different person who can behave in a different way, acquiring and sustaining a new lifestyle consistent with the principles, protocols, and purposes of the kingdom of God.
Jesus begins the discipling with a foundational call: “Follow Me.” This is deeper than “accompany Me where I’m going.” This is deeper than “be present to observe what I’m doing.” That would be as deep as the crowds who attempted to define Jesus with their false expectations. That would be as deep as His enemies who “followed” Him to catch Him in an opportunity for criticism.
“Following” Jesus means being present to hear, observe, and receive, but much more because “following” means doing what I am doing so that by shared spiritual experience you can learn to be like Me as the fountainhead of doing what I’m doing and saying what I’m saying. “Following” means “lay down your life,” “take up your cross,” and “continue in My word.”
“If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed.” Real disciples live the fullest consequences of their shared spiritual experiences. They are really disciples because they really live kingdom principles, protocols, and purposes.
Ask modern believers what “continue in My word” means, and the answers will astonish you! Anything from “go to church every Sunday” for the older crowd to ” don’t forget how to quote John 3:16″ for the younger crowd, and in between a smattering of misplaced slogan chanting or “I feel really loved.” When kingdom was laid aside and “church” became the totality of a believer’s life and lifestyle, “continue in My word” started looking more like a label than a lifestyle or “church” became a religious subculture based upon doctrinal idolatry or denominational distinctives.
John started the discipling thing with repentance, water baptism, and “fruits of repentance.” Jesus took up what John founded with the Grace and Power of life-change and a baptism of Holy Spirit and fire that would purge the old and dead from the disciple’s life so the disciple could represent Jesus in the earth.
The kingdom is composed of kingdom leaders. Within the kingdom, kingdom leaders bring a discipling culture to believers. Outside the kingdom, all the citizens of the kingdom bring kingdom leadership to the cultures of the earth. The kingdom is a kingdom of leaders, discipled within the kingdom so they can disciple cultures outside the kingdom. For the human kingdom citizens to influence and impact outside the kingdom, they must be discipled with kingdom leadership inside the kingdom.
That is, Jesus is doing direct discipling. No “Jesus and me” isolation from the kingdom and the Body is “normal.” It is a form of dysfunction. To live without a human discipling – and I’m not speaking of attending a weekly service but an established, somewhat formal relationship with a spiritual father, an accountability for personal destiny – is to live outside the norms of the kingdom of God.
Weak human discipling will result in weak kingdom discipling: the influence and impact of the kingdom in the culture will be diminished. This is the most important, fundamental characteristic of the modern form of christianism: it has little influence or impact upon the culture. A truly awakened and revived Church will be a kingdom force to the culture in which it exists by producing teachable and transformable leaders within the kingdom who can be kingdom leaders wherever they live and function in the culture outside the kingdom.
A kingdom disciple can show you by lifestyle what Jesus said so what Jesus said has the proper meaning in the lives of those who are being discipled by them. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Now, read the context of this phrase: “Consider the lifestyles of those provide leadership for you, who have communicated God’ Word: follow their faith, the result of their lifestyles. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow , considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8]
Jesus is consistently, continuously, and constantly the same when we are properly discipled, when the leaders disciple us in the principles, protocols, and purposes of the kingdom and we make that relational process a priority in our own lives. Unplug from this dynamic and Jesus Christ becomes someone or something else? Not in this sense that He is changeable, but the result is that believers who fail to live out the full consequences of faith ultimately alter that faith to fit their lifestyles and Jesus is not represented in the earth properly anymore.