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Bottom Line Discipling

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A lot of people dabble at discipship. Most efforts are program centered with little attention to life on life relationships. Kind of an auto assembly line approach, where one size fits all. So let’s talk about what really transforms lives into Christ’s image in the discipling process. It is a given that unless the Holy Spirit is at the heart of our efforts, it is an exercise in futility.


Let’s start with the discipler. If he or she is to bear true fruit, it will only happen as a product of a rich and deep walk with God. By that I mean the discipler is dead serious about consistent, unrushed, in depth time with God in prayerful meditation, study, and application of God’s word. Feather weights in the spiritual disciplines are not fruit bearers. Jesus talked about the vine branch relationship. That is, Jesus, the vine, pours His life into us, the branch. The two live in intimate union and communion with each other, and fruit naturally happens. Here’s how He puts it, “Just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all” (Jn. 15:4, 5 – Philips Trans.).


Secondly, discipleship is not a program but a relationship. One life poured into another. Or several people; building into each other’s lives (See Col. 3:16; Eph. 3:16). Paul talked affectionately of his son in the faith, Timothy, reflecting back on how they did life together over a period of about 17 years. Paul’s example of godly sacrifice was infused into Timothy’s life by their close proximity to each other: “You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions…” (2 Tim. 3:10, 11 -NKJV) Timothy caught Paul’s godly example, and chose to emulate it. (See Pro. 23:26; 2 Tim. 2:2)




In last week’s “Facts” we stressed the fact that (1) Assembly line approaches to discipling do not work. Basically it is a life on life affair. (2) The discipler must set an example of an in depth walk with God if he is to bear true fruit in the life of another.


Paul spoke often about the power and importance of example. Thus, he enjoined the Corinthians to “follow [his] example, as [he had followed] the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). (See Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 1 Thess. 1:5, 6; 2 Tim. 2:2) If we are to seriously affect another’s life we must give them access to our lives over a sustained period of time. Imagine, Jesus being with the Twelve for 2 to 3 years, 24/7. And change they did.


Next, we need to understand what to build into a person’s life. First and foremost is the word of God. Several disciplines are paramount. At the head of the list is modeling from our lives regular time alone with God in prayerful meditation on His word. We need to teach them how to slow down and take a small portion of Scripture, mull it over in their minds, and jot down their findings. Then learn to take the time to stop and pray their observations into their life. They will not get the significance of slowing down to meditate on the word unless you model it and do it with them until they get it.


Another critical discipline toward spiritual maturation is Scripture memory. Building the habit and conviction of hiding God’s word in their heart will transform their lives and equip them like nothing else. (See Rom. 12:2; Psa. 11:9, 11). After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). The Navigator Topical Memory System is an excellent tool in this regard. (Google NavPress). Let’s be honest, without knowing and internalizing God’s word you are like a guy playing the piano with gloves on: A sad display of ignorance and ineptness. I know of no discipline that is more spiritually transformational than regular, disciplined memorization of God’s word. Few are willing to pay the price, however. Here is where we separate the men from the boys.





In our two previous “Facts” we emphasized the importance of (1) regular times of prayerful meditation on God’s word (“Quiet Time”), and (2) Scripture memory.


Next, the discipline of Bible study. The writer of the Book of Hebrews castigated his audience for their pitiful shallowness relative to God’s word: “By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby's milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; 14 solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong” (Heb. 5:12-14 – Msg.).


If we are serious about growing to spiritual maturity, we need to get rid of the plastic floats under our arms and venture out into deep water and swim. There comes a time to move on from spiritual childhood to adulthood. Q and A studies are OK…for a season, but we need to matriculate into serious “inductive” Bible study.


Here is what I mean by inductive Bible study: 1


Choose a passage of Scripture, from three to a dozen verses. Or choose a chapter from a book of the Bible. Ask the following questions about the passage:

  • Who is writing or speaking, and to whom?
  • What is the passage about?
  • When does this take place?
  • Why does the author write what he does?
  • What problems or challenges are the recipients facing and how does the passage address them?
  • How does this passage fit into the context of what is said before and after it?





In our two previous “Facts” we discussed the discipline of getting into God’s word through the “Quiet Time”, Scripture memory and Bible study. We now continue our discussion of Bible study:

Other questions you may what to ask of the passage you are studying:

  • What is commanded?
  • What is promised?
  • What are repeated words or ideas?
  • What do I learn about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?
  • What do I learn about myself or my fellow man?
  • What is the big idea in this passage? Develop your thoughts into a paragraph or two.
  • Ask questions relative to the big idea with “how,” “why,” or “what.”
  • Outline or summarize the passage.
  • Look up cross references to some of the key verses or ideas. Ask what is the connecting thought?
  • You may want to consult commentaries (as a last resort) regarding difficult verses or passages.

Complete the study by writing an application. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for”

  • Teaching: What did I learn?
  • Reproof: Where do I fall short?
  • Correction: What do I plan to do about it?
  • Training in righteousness: How can I make this principle a consistent part of my life?


Here is a simple pattern to use in building the spiritual disciplines (Bible study, Scripture memory, etc) into your disciple’s life: Don’t just tell him to do it. Rather:

  1. · Tell him why: That is, motivate him.
  2. · Show him how: That is, demonstrate it to him.
  3. · Get him started: That is, break the inertia.
  4. · Keep him going: That is, get them to persevere.
  5. · Get him to pass it on: That is the beginning of spiritual multiplication. You only know he owns the discipline when he passes it on.

In our previous “Facts” we have discussed the disciplines of Quiet Time with God, Scripture Memory, and Bible study. Our last discipline is training our disciples to participate in the Great Commission of winning people to Christ and then discipling them. (Matt. 28:18-20) For starters, we must model for them how to live and labor among the lost. The lost must become our friends. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, glutton, and a “friend of sinners” because he hung out with the lost, winning many of them to himself. (See Lk. 7:34; Matt. 11:19) We are to emulate Jesus in this regard. We will best teach evangelism to our emerging disciples by modeling Jesus’ pattern as we relate to our neighbors, business associates, club members, etc.


There are several effective ways to present the Gospel. Every disciple, should, for example have his testimony ready to give at an opportune time. (See I Pet. 3:15) Study Paul’s testimony in Acts 26:1-23, and follow his pattern of telling about his life before his conversion, how he came to Christ, and what his life has been like since. Have your disciple write out his testimony, keeping it to five minutes or less due to people’s short attention span.


Several effective “tools” for presenting the Gospel are available at Christian book stores or through para-church organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter-Varsity Press, and the Navigators.




In our previous “Facts” we stressed (1) the discipler’s need to set the pace and example of depth in his relationship with God, (2) Discipleship is relationship based, not program based, (3) As disciplers, I suggested we consider building the following disciplines into our disciple’s lives: Quiet Time, Scripture Memory, Bible study, evangelism and discipleship of others.


As a discipler we need to learn the art and discipline of listening. Sadly, most of us talk too much and listen and observe too little. (See Jms. 1:19) It is important that we learn to listen compassionately to the heart of the people we are seeking to disciple. What are their fears, defeats and pains? How can I lead them to Jesus for healing, restoration and renewed hope? We need to create an atmosphere of acceptance so that they will feel free to bear their heart with us. (See Pro. 20:5) One way is to be transparent with them about our own life – to the degree that is appropriate and they can handle.


Believe it, discipleship is a spiritual battle. Once your disciple begins to grow spiritually he will become a threat to the Enemy and will experience his attacks. To ward off Satan, intercessory prayer on your part is a must. Paul confided to the Galatians, “My little children, for whom I am again suffering birth pangs until Christ is completely and permanently formed (molded) within you…” (Gal. 4:19). Doubtless that travail included deep heart-felt prayer to the Father on their behalf. The night before the cross Christ prayed extensively for the Twelve disciples. (See John 17) That passage, coupled with Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12 contain invaluable material on what to pray for your disciple(s)d.


Finally, we need to speak into our disciple’s life. That is, as we observe patterns of sin, or character weaknesses, we should pray, ponder and wait. When clearly prompted by the Holy Spirit, speak to him about issues critical to his spiritual growth. We are to care enough to confront; care enough to risk the friendship, if necessary. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Pro. 27:6 – NKJV)


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