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True Discipleship a Companion Guide
The Art of Following Jesus
By John Koessler
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2003 John Koessler
All rights reserved.
THE MARK OF GRACE
KEY PASSAGE:By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:16–17)
The soul has life communicated to it, so as through Christ's power to have inherent in itself a vital nature. In the soul where Christ savingly is, there he lives. He does not merely live without it, so as violently to actuate it, but he lives in it, so that the soul also is alive. Grace in the soul is as much from Christ as the light in a glass, held out in the sunbeams, is from the sun.
God's free gift of justification, that is, pardon and acceptance here and now through Christ's perfect obedience culminating in his substitutionary sin bearing for us on the cross, is the basis on which the entire sanctifying process rests.... Holy people glory, not in their holiness, but in Christ's cross; for the holiest saint is never more than a justified sinner and never sees himself in any other way.
J. I. Packer
The life of discipleship is rooted in the grace of God. It begins in grace, is lived out in grace, and will be completed in grace. Discipleship is not so much a matter of doing the right things as it is one of cooperating with the grace of God. Everything we do as followers of Christ is a reflection of the life of Christ within us. Notice what the verses below have to say about the relationship between God's grace and the Christian life.
Discipleship is not primarily a matter of what we do. It is an outgrowth of who and what we are in Christ. Yet if this is true, it is reasonable for others to expect to see proof of the reality of our commitment to Christ reflected in the way that we live. Jesus' observation regarding false prophets is also true of disciples. They are recognizable by the fruit they produce: "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:16–17). So what are the marks of a disciple? Jesus Himself identified several important characteristics; we'll look at them in upcoming lessons.
Write a prayer of response. If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, ask Him to forgive you of your sin and to take control of your life. If you have already done so, thank God for His grace and ask Him to use this workbook to strengthen your spiritual life.CHAPTER 2
THE MARK OF BAPTISM
KEY PASSAGE:Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
But baptism serves as our confession before men. Indeed, it is the mark by which we publicly profess that we wish to be reckoned God's people; by which we testify that we agree in worshipping the same God, in one religion with all Christians; by which finally we openly affirm our faith.
Experiencing baptism doesn't make you right with God. The water of baptism does not wash away the guilt of your disobedience to the laws of God. Rather it is the grace of God, through the work of Jesus Christ that brings you into God's family and favor. That doesn't mean, however, that baptism is unimportant. Although baptism is never equated with faith or salvation in the New Testament, it is closely associated with both.
The first mark of a disciple is baptism. It is one of the first acts that identifies us as followers of Jesus Christ and initiates us into a life of obedience. When Jesus commissioned the church to go and make disciples of all nations, He identified baptism as the first of the two central tasks of disciple making in Matthew 28:19.
Read Matthew 28:18–20 and then answer the following questions.
Those who are joined to Christ by faith are also joined to other believers in the fellowship of the Spirit, Paul tells the Corinthians—and us. They confess the same Lord and are indwelt by the same Spirit. In a sense, baptism is as much a symbol of commitment to the church as it is a pledge of fidelity to Christ.
The text does not say that Noah was saved "from" water but "through" it. Noah and his family passed through the waters of judgment but were spared its effects because Noah had believed God and had entered the safety of the ark. In a similar way, believers passed through divine judgment when it was poured out on Christ. They have been spared its effects because they have believed the gospel and are safe "in Christ."
The Bible does not teach that the rite of baptism in and of itself conveys the forgiveness of sin. Although Peter says that baptism "now saves you," he clarifies that it is actually the work of Christ that does the saving and not the water of baptism (1 Peter 3:21).
Peter uses the language of contractual agreements to describe baptism. The Greek term that is translated "pledge" literally meant "answer" and referred to a legal procedure in which questions were asked and commitments made on the part of those who entered into a contractual arrangement with one another. Baptism is a pledge of commitment made to God that springs from the cleansing that has come through faith in Christ.
Read Galatians 5:17–24 and Ephesians 2:1–10. In the boxes below write what these passages say was true of us while we were in the sinful nature and what is true of us now that we are in Christ.
The ordinance of baptism has been compared to one's wedding vows. Write out a "pledge" of commitment to Christ that reflects the spiritual truths symbolized in baptism.
Because it symbolizes the believer's union with Christ through the Holy Spirit, baptism also contains an implicit promise of transformation. Baptism's picture of burial and resurrection points to a radical change in the believer's nature. Those who are in Christ are alive in a way that was not true prior to Christ. Paul links baptism with the Old Testament rite of circumcision and says that those who have been baptized have "put off" the old nature (Colossians 2:11–12). All who enter into a relationship with Christ die to the old self. Positively, they have been "clothed" with Christ (Galatians 3:27). God's promise in baptism is the promise of forgiveness and a new life. My commitment in baptism is the pledge to live in accordance with the change that Christ has brought about in me by His death and resurrection.
Use what you have written above as the basis for a prayer of commitment to Christ.CHAPTER 3
THE MARK OF OBEDIENCE
KEY PASSAGE:To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31–32)
A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a very great thing.
Our Lord never enforces obedience; He does not take means to make me do what He wants. At certain times I wish God would master me and make me do the thing, but He will not; in other moods I wish He would leave me alone, but He does not.
A. W. Tozer
True discipleship is marked by obedience. The second major component of Jesus' directive in the Great Commission was to teach disciples "to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). Obedience is not optional for the Christian. As Jesus' popularity increased, He warned followers that obedience would be the true test of their discipleship. According to John 8:31–32, "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" Passages like this can make us uncomfortable because they seem to imply that our status as disciples is earned. There is a condition here, but its force is one of evidence rather than of cause. Jesus did not say that we become disciples by holding to His teaching.
Commenting on the passage, New Testament scholar Leon Morris explained, "Jesus' words then are meant to drive home to formal and casual adherents something of the meaning of true discipleship. If men in any sense believe in Him it is important that they be led to see what real faith means." The obedience spoken of by Jesus is proof that those who obey are truly Christ's disciples in the first place. This may sound like a semantic game, but the order is vitally important. If discipleship depends upon my obedience, then the primary focus of Jesus' statement is on my ability to comply with all that God commands. If, on the other hand, obedience depends upon the reality of my discipleship relationship with Jesus Christ, the primary focus is on Christ Himself.
The Scriptures speak of two very different kinds of obedience: one is legalistic; the other is rooted in grace. Legalistic obedience follows God's commands in order to earn a righteous standing in God's sight. Grace-rooted obedience recognizes that righteousness can only be received as a gift. It cannot be earned as a wage. My obedience is an expression of gratitude for that gift.
After each of the following Scripture passages, indicate the type of obedience being described and briefly explain why you think it falls into that category.
Legalistic obedience is the polar opposite of grace-rooted obedience. Although the objective in legalistic obedience may seem like a good one—the observance of God's commands—it is flawed because it overestimates the human capacity to comply. It produces an obedience that is grounded in self rather than in God.
Grace, like legalism, also has obedience to God's commands as its objective. According to Romans 2:14, it is not those who hear God's Law who are declared righteous but those who obey it. The chief difference with grace-rooted obedience is that it is grounded in Christ's righteousness rather than my own. It is "the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5). Legalism, on the other hand, produces an obedience that is grounded in self rather than in God.
For the Christian, faith is obedience, because it focuses on the one who obeyed all God's commands on my behalf. When I trusted in Jesus Christ, my faith was credited to me as righteousness (Romans 4:5). Grace-rooted obedience recognizes that righteousness can only be received as a gift. It cannot be earned as a wage. My present obedience is an expression of gratitude for that gift. It is not surprising, then, that Jesus repeatedly identified love as the primary motive for obedience. "If you love me," He told His disciples, "you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). "He who does not love me," He warned, "will not obey my teaching" (John 14:24).
Write a brief prayer asking for God's help to follow through on the area of obedience described above.
THE MARK OF SPIRITUAL FRUIT
KEY PASSAGE:If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7–8)
Every plant must have both soil and root. Without both of these there can be no life, no growth, no fruit.
Samuel Coleridge, the British poet and philosopher, was arguing with a man who believed that religious instruction was harmful to children. The man believed that children should not be burdened with their parents' notions about God. He reasoned that this would make them better equipped to make their own decisions about faith when they reached the age of discretion. Coleridge strongly disagreed but did not argue with the man. Instead, he invited him to step into his garden. It had been neglected for some time and was overgrown with weeds. "Do you call this a garden!" the man declared. "There are nothing but weeds here!" Coleridge smiled slyly upon hearing the man's criticism. "Well, you see," Coleridge explained, "I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself and to choose its own production."
According to Jesus, those who abide in Christ produce spiritual fruit (John 15:5). Results are expected of the disciple, but they are the results of being connected to the vine. It is the life of the vine that generates the fruit. Yet there is clearly an element of personal responsibility involved in the fruit-bearing process: The believer has the responsibility of abiding. Still, it is not possible to produce fruit apart from Christ. When I abide, I am conscious that everything that Christ commands of me Christ must also produce in me. It is a state that might be described as "actively passive." It is both active and passive at the same time.
Read John 15:1–17 and in the table below summarize what is said about the Father, Jesus Christ, and the believer in these verses.
According to Jesus, the branch draws its life from its connection to the vine. If it were to be severed from the vine, it would wither and die. The same is true of the believer. We have no spiritual life apart from Christ. He is the source of our life and the ultimate cause of fruitfulness. The Christian life is simply the life of Christ reflected in our own lives. It has both passive and active dimensions. It is passive in that Christ alone is its source. I cannot give life to myself. No human effort can add to what Christ has already done. Yet there is also an active dimension to the spiritual life. We make choices and take actions that enable us to access the life of Christ and bring it to bear on daily living. We read the Bible and pray. We worship God and serve one another. In the natural realm, the farmer plants the seed and cultivates the crop but cannot make the plant grow. This is also true in the spiritual realm. Human effort is involved but the growth comes from God. As Paul puts it, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow" (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Write a prayer asking God to produce spiritual fruit in the area identified above. Be specific in what you request.
Excerpted from True Discipleship a Companion Guide by John Koessler. Copyright © 2003 John Koessler. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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