In Disney’s new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, there is a prominent group of vigilantes called “Mandalorians”. Their culture follows a strict code of conduct. They are raised in a clan, taught their ways of epic hand-to-hand combat, learn the principles they live by, and eventually are sufficient on their own. These codes, creeds and principles are critical to their way of life and are the foundation of their culture. They remind themselves of these principles by repeating to each other, “This is the way.” The Mandalorian characters are some of the most well-loved characters in Star Wars. People go to great lengths to imitate them by creating elaborate costumes, reading books, creating wiki’s and more. But, what does this have to do with your Christian life? Hang with me…
In the Gospel according to Matthew, the last words that Jesus spoke to his disciples contained both a charge and a promise. It’s often called “The Great Commission”:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
— Matthew 28:19-20
So, what does this mean for you and me as brothers who claim to love and follow Jesus? Well, it means that we are to be active in the disciple-making process, or discipleship.
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible provides a clear definition for a disciple: “Someone who follows another person or another way of life and who submits himself to the discipline (teaching) of that leader or way.” This is a good starting point, but let’s take a look at Scripture to get a clearer picture.
In Matthew 28 Jesus tells his disciples to go make more disciples by doing two things. First, they are to find people who are willing to commit themselves to this way of life; a life that trusts Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is their only salvation. They will be baptized as a public profession that they are now a part of this way of life. Second, they are to teach and instruct these new disciples in all his commands. Jesus spent several years of ministry here on earth bringing the New Covenant to us, so there was much to be taught and learned.
In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus, he builds on Jesus’ example with a New Testament pattern for us to follow. There are older, more mature believers who are full of sound doctrine and teaching. They are expected to train and instruct the younger, less mature believers in that same doctrine, so they may live to glorify God. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells his hearers to imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We see a chain of discipleship formed. We see Jesus charge his disciples to go make more disciples. Those new disciples are then expected to make even more disciples, all following Jesus. This is the way Jesus has designed his kingdom to be built. He works through individuals who are devoting themselves to his teaching and then handing that teaching down to others. This means there is no ‘single-player mode’ in Christianity.It’s cooperative by design. It requires the entire body working together, edifying each other and building each other up.
Being involved in discipleship (the act of making and building disciples) isn’t a negotiable one. We’ve seen how Jesus commands us to make disciples and how Paul reinforces the pattern throughout his New Testament letters. Let’s take a moment to evaluate ourselves.
First, are you even a disciple? Have you made a commitment to live in the truth of what Jesus has done for you, or are you still denying the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for you? Have you committed your salvation from eternal punishment to Jesus and his work on your behalf? Is your life owned and directed by his commands? If not, reach out to a disciple of Jesus and ask questions with a desire to understand. Humbly ask God to soften your heart to his truth, and give you eyes to see and ears to hear.
Secondly, if you are a believer who has made this profession, are you acting like a disciple? Or, are you acting dis…tracted? Who is actively in your life training you and challenging your growth? Our hearts are deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9) and we need other brothers in our lives to lovingly point out our blind spots so we can repent. Who are you regularly seeking out for these kinds of insights? What mature brother in Christ is regularly teaching and training you in the way of Jesus? Attending one gathering a week and living in relative isolation is not in line with the Biblical pattern for disciples of Jesus.
Third, who are you discipling? If you are a believer who has been faithfully pursuing righteous living and studying the Word regularly, who are you passing this on to? Who has God put in your life that you can spend time with and pour into? Consider fellow brothers at the Chapel, younger brothers in the faith, coworkers, neighborhood friends, your wife, your children, and so on… These are all examples of opportunities to make and build disciples. Even if you are a new believer, you can be a means of God’s grace in someone’s life. You can actively love and serve others in friendship with your God-given gifts.
Discipleship is the expected way of believers. It can be scary, intimidating and overwhelming, but don’t forget the promise that comes along with the charge for disciple-making. Jesus says in Matthew 28, “I will be with you.”
Disciple-making is Spirit enabled work. This means we can’t make disciples on our own strength Since faith is a gift from God, we rely on the Spirit working through our efforts. However, the Spirit can’t use what you don’t offer up. We must labor, trusting that our work will be used by him. It may fall flat sometimes. It may take a long time. It may be a joy at times as well. Don’t let this deter you. Do not forget the presence of Jesus in the midst of our work. It takes time, courage, and commitment to make disciples. Pray for opportunities and then be sure to take advantage of them when they come.
Being discipled is also Spirit enabled work. It takes a humble heart. It takes the investment and commitment from you and others. Ask God to provide you with a humble heart to hear hard truths and be challenged in your Christian walk. Be willing to be changed more and more into the likeness of Christ.
There is much wisdom in discipleship. For believers, it is not optional whether or not you are involved in discipleship. Fortunately, there are many ways we can accomplish this discipleship. Whether it’s regular conversations during breakfasts, lunches, dinners, phone calls, chats over coffee, fishing, hiking, or any other spiritually minded conversations during shared life together…let’s commit ourselves to building God’s kingdom and being built into. Let our Godly relationships with other brothers be so regular and profitable that we can say, “this is the way”.