Part of the9Marks Healthy Church Study Guideseries, this study discusses biblical teaching on discipleship and explores practical application in the life of the church.
About the Author
Bobby Jamieson(PhD, University of Cambridge) serves as an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He previously served as assistant editor for 9Marks. Jamiesonand his wifehave three children.
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THE NEED FOR DISCIPLESHIP
1. What was the last experience you had that showed you that you still have a lot to learn, whether at home, at work, in church, or in any other area of life?
This whole study is going to focus on discipleship. To be a disciple is to be a student, someone who learns from and imitates his teacher. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all called to continually learn from him and follow him in every area of life.
Practically speaking, this means that we need to realize that discipleship is a lifelong process. In this life, none of us is a finished product. We all need to continually progress as disciples.
None of us is perfect. We all need to grow as disciples of Christ.
In Philippians 3:8–11, Paul exclaims that everything that once caused him to be proud he now considers to have been a waste of time because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. He then explains why he has gladly lost all of that and more: it's allowed him to know Christ, to share in his sufferings, and to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
But in case anyone might think that Paul was saying that he had become perfectly mature, Paul continues:
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil. 3:12–21)
1. What does Paul say that he is not, and that he has not yet done (vv. 12–13)?
2. If this is how the apostle Paul viewed himself, what does that say about what our own attitudes toward ourselves should be?
3. What reason does Paul give for why he presses on to obtain a deeper knowledge of Christ (v. 12)?
4. What does this teach us about the basis and motivation for our growth as Christians?
5. What is the one thing that Paul does do (vv. 13–14)?
6. What kind of imagery does Paul use in verses 13 and 14? What does it remind you of? What does this teach us about the kind of effort we should spend on growing as Christians?
7. Whom does Paul instruct us to imitate in verse 17? (Hint: There are two answers.)
8. What does this teach us about how we are to grow as Christians?
9. What is the threat Paul mentions to our faithfully following his and others' godly example (vv. 18–19)? Why does this threat make it especially important for us to follow godly examples?
10. List everything Paul says is true of us as Christians in verses 20 to 21. How does each of these things encourage us to persevere in our discipleship?
11. How do you respond when a fellow believer corrects or rebukes you? What does this reveal about how you see yourself?
12. In this study we've seen that all of us need to continually grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, and that we are to do so by seeking out and imitating godly examples. Can you list one or two people who are worth being imitated? What Christlike qualities do you perceive in those individuals that are worth imitating?
13. Paul presents himself as an example to be imitated. A person could do this out of pride, but explain how one could also do this out of humility.
14. Is your life one which younger Christians should imitate? If not, do you work to become that kind of person?
15. What is one practical way you can seek to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ this week?CHAPTER 2
THE DEFINITION OF DISCIPLESHIP
1. What comes into your mind when you think about "discipleship"? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Discipleship means growing as followers of Jesus and helping others to do the same.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls people to leave everything and follow him. Read all of the following passages aloud:
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matt. 4:18–20)
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. (Matt. 9:9)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 16:24–25)
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25–26)
1. Based on these passages, what does it mean to follow Jesus? List as many things as you can think of below.
2. Does following Jesus mean that we must leave our jobs or other responsibilities, as Peter, Andrew, and Matthew all did? Explain your answer from Scripture.
3. According to these passages, is following Jesus easy?
As we considered in our previous study, none of us are perfect. All of us need to continually grow as followers of Jesus. Although there is certainly a point at which all of us first believed the gospel and submitted our lives to Christ, we are not true followers of Jesus if we simply made a "decision" at some point and our lives haven't changed at all.
Rather, being Christians — disciples of Jesus — means that we constantly repent of sin, confess it, seek to overcome it, and do all that we can to grow in likeness to Christ. As Peter tells us, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). To be a follower of Jesus is to be always growing in following Jesus.
Let's consider another passage of Scripture that helps to define discipleship. At the very end of the book of Matthew, Jesus gives his eleven disciples the charge which has come to be known as the Great Commission. He says,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)
4. What does Jesus say has been given to him (v. 18)? What does that require of us?
5. What does Jesus command his disciples to do? How are they to do it (vv. 19–20)?
6. Do you think this passage applies to believers today, or was it only for the eleven disciples? Explain your answer from the text.
7. What encouragement does Jesus give us in this task of making disciples (v. 20)?
8. What are some things that could cause us to be discouraged as we seek to make disciples? How does Jesus's promise to be with us help us during those times?
9. We typically associate this passage with cross-cultural missions, which is certainly something that this passage requires. But is that this passage's only application? What do you think?
As we've seen in this passage, Jesus's followers are to obey all of his commands, which include this command to go and make disciples. This means that all disciples of Jesus are to work to make other disciples of Jesus, first by proclaiming the good news of the gospel to them, and then, for those who respond in faith, teaching them to do everything that Jesus has commanded.
To be a follower of Jesus is to help others grow as followers of Jesus.
10. Do you think about every single area of your life through the lens of being a follower of Jesus? What's one area in your life in which you struggle to follow Jesus?
Here's one practical way for you to follow up on the last question. Do you know a believer who sets a godly example in the area of discipleship you struggle with?
If so, ask if you can get together with this person and discuss this matter. God means for us to grow through the help of others.
If not, ask around at church until you find someone who does!
11. Have you considered that a normal part of being a follower of Jesus is helping others grow as followers of Jesus? What are some ways this truth should impact:
a) Your daily schedule?
b) How you approach going to church on Sunday?
c) Casual conversations with friends?
d) Other areas of your life?CHAPTER 3
THE MOTIVATIONS OF DISCIPLESHIP
1. Is there anything in your life that you're required to do, but you consistently struggle to find motivation for? How do you respond? Where do you go to find the motivation you need?
In this study we're going to consider the motivations of discipleship. Why should we seek to obey God and grow in holiness? What are the right reasons for trying to grow as Christians and helping others do the same?
We should grow as Christians and help others do the same because of who God is, what he has done for us in Christ, and who he has made us in Christ.
In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul lays out a vision for growing as disciples of Jesus that is based upon a rich diversity of motivations. He writes,
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:1–13)
1. What does Paul command us to do in verse 1? On what basis does Paul command us to do this (v. 1)?
2. Paul is saying that although we were spiritually dead, we have now been raised to life with Christ, and now we are seated with Christ in heaven. Does this make you want to grow as a disciple of Jesus? Why or why not?
3. How is this motivation for discipleship different from a "just do it" approach, where we seek to obey God out of a bare sense of obligation?
4. What does Paul command us to do in verse 2? On what grounds does Paul command us to do this (vv. 3–4)?
5. In verse 3, Paul says that, if you're a Christian, you've died. You've died to your old self. You've died to sin. You've died to the power of this world which once held you captive. How does the fact that you've died to sin encourage you to pursue holiness?
6. In verse 4, Paul reminds us that when Christ appears, we will also appear with him in glory.
a) Think about a difficult task you've completed that had a specific goal in mind, like a race or a project on a deadline. Now imagine if the outcome of that task you're striving for is perfectly sure and will certainly happen. How would that affect your effort in the present?
b) In a similar way, how should the certain hope of being glorified with Christ fuel your efforts to grow in Christ now?
In sum, the first four verses of this passage motivate our growth in godliness by reminding us of our death to sin and new life in Christ (vv. 1–3), and the certain hope of future glory with Christ (v. 4).
7. What does Paul say to "put to death" in verse 5? What does it mean to "put to death" a certain behavior or attitude?
8. What does Paul say "is coming" in verse 6? Why?
It's clear from Paul's teaching about God's wrath that one reason we should obey Christ is because God will punish sin.
First, we should obey Christ in order to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith. Jesus says that everyone who loves him does what he commands (John 14:15). If we do not obey Jesus's commands, we do not belong to him, which means that we are facing God's wrath.
Second, God's wrath against sin should motivate us to flee from it and to pursue righteousness because God's wrath reveals what sin really is: treason against God that deserves to be punished. Thus, meditating on God's hatred of sin should cause us to hate it too.
9. What does Paul command us to "put away," in verse 8? What does he command us not to do in verse 9? What reason does he give for why we shouldn't do these things (vv. 9–10)?
10. What does Paul say about God's attitude and actions toward us in verses 12–13? What does he tell us to do in light of these things in those verses?
In this study, we've seen that God gives us a rich variety of motivations to spur us on to grow in godliness and help others do the same:
Our death to sin and new life in Christ (vv. 1–3).
Our certain hope of glory with Christ (v. 4).
The fact that God hates sin and will punish sin (v. 6).
Our new nature in Christ (vv. 9–10).
God's electing love for us (v. 12).
God's forgiveness of our sins (v. 13).
11. Are any of these truths new to you? If all of them are familiar, are there ones that you haven't considered before as motivations to grow in godliness?
12. What are some ways you can use the truths in this passage to spur on your own and others' growth in godliness? How can you practically reshape your heart's motivations?
13. In light of this passage, what do you think are some wrong motivations for growing in godliness? Do you personally struggle with any of these?
14. Can you give some examples of ways that the truths we've seen in this passage have motivated your own growth in godliness or your discipleship of others? What impact have these truths already had on your discipleship?CHAPTER 4
THE MEANS OF DISCIPLESHIP: FOLLOWING GODLY EXAMPLES
Have you ever heard the phrase "Some things are better caught than taught?" It gets at the idea that some things are more easily learned by watching someone's example than through formal classroom instruction.
1. What are some things that you have learned more by imitation than by instruction?
As Christians, we certainly learn much by instruction, and we'll consider the role of teaching in our next study. But in this study, we want to consider the crucial and often overlooked truth that Christians are meant to grow through imitating godly examples.
Learning from godly examples is a crucial aspect of Christian discipleship. This means that we should both seek out godly examples to follow and set a godly example for others.
At the end of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul concludes a long and somewhat complex discussion about meat sacrificed to idols and other issues that were troubling the Christians in Corinth. His basic point is that in all we do, we should seek the good of others. Our concern in this study is not so much the specific issue Paul addresses, but the general principles he gives us:
23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience — 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Committing to One Another: Discipleship in the Church"
Copyright © 2012 9Marks.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction An Important Mark of a Healthy Church: Biblical Discpleship and Growth, by Mark Dever,
WEEK 1 The Need for Discipleship,
WEEK 2 The Definition of Discipleship,
WEEK 3 The Motivations of Discipleship,
WEEK 4 The Means of Discipleship: Following Godly Examples,
WEEK 5 The Means of Discipleship: Teaching One Another,
WEEK 6 The Enemy of Discipleship: Indwelling Sin,
WEEK 7 The End of Discipleship,
What People are Saying About This
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