Devotional

The Discipleship Journey

…in the region of Galilee by the Sea of Galilee.

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Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matt. 4:18-22

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

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:43-46

What is Discipleship?

Discipleship is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Jesus called His followers disciples and warned them of the cost of being His disciple. Then, He gave them a commission to go and make more disciples. The purpose of the church is to help people become disciples of Jesus Christ. 

Be disciples making disciples.

However, I think many churches are struggling in the field of discipleship. The main reason why the Great Commission is so important is because it is part of the Jesus Christ message. The data shows that most church growth is not from people coming to faith in Christ, but from people moving from one church to another.That’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not a path to kingdom growth and it’s not fulfilling the Great Commission.

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The purpose of discipleship is to bring about real change in our lives, but change is seldom easy. It may seem like it would be easy to become a Christian and attend church regularly, but in reality, it usually takes a long time for any real change to happen. You continue to:

  • You seem to get angry easily and lash out at those around you. You know it’s going to put a wall between you and them, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Your finances are in a bad state, and you owe a lot of money.
  • Your marriage is struggling in the same areas that you were struggling 10 years ago.
  • You don’t want your peers to know you’re a Christian because your life isn’t a good witness.
  • Your busy season has been going on uninterrupted for many years and you are beginning to realise that it’s not a season – it’s a lifestyle.
  • You don’t feel close to God and you don’t feel that you receive much from reading the Bible.
  • Prayer is not much better if you only pray.
  • You go to church but feel disconnected from the people there.

I wish I could say that becoming a Christian is like turning on a light switch and all of a sudden everything is different. But it’s not like that! Forget about “Name it and Claim it” messages – that’s not discipleship, it’s not the gospel message. Sincere believers love Jesus, and they often struggle with many areas of life – change is not an easy process. I hope that you will see that change is possible – even in the seemingly impossible. My prayer is that this helps you see more discipleship in your life, and that this becomes the norm rather than the exception in your life.

So why call this “Discipleship Journey”? Simply because discipleship is not a destination we reach, a height we reach, or a goal we reach. The journey is what matters. Like any journey, it consists of a series of steps, some small, and others larger. It’s about progress not procedure. And it’s not a clean, straight line, it’s often a messy process. A mess does not mean that discipleship is not taking place. Sometimes mess is a sign that discipleship is happening. I’ve learned that someone can look spiritually mature on the outside, but be far from God on the inside. People can look very messy on the outside, but if you look closely, you’ll see that there is real progress being made on the inside.

Jesus calls us to be a discipleship model for others. How can we be more effective in our ministry? Let’s start our journey together by following Jesus. There is so much to be gleaned from those two words.

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  1. Follow me is a call into fellowship with Jesus

Follow me back then meant something different than it does today on Twitter or Instagram. When Jesus said, “follow me,” he meant much more than just looking at my quotes or pictures. Follow me means take a walk with me, get to know me, hear me, and see me. Watch what I do and participate in what I do, and when you do, you learn who I am: my heart, my character, my values.I don’t call you servants (“do it for me”), I call you friends

The discipleship journey is following Jesus closely as our best friend. He is a friend who is more loyal than a brother. He will always be with us and never abandon us. He will be with us until the end of time. If we forget this, we may boil down discipleship to performance. Do I have enough love for Jesus? Is there something holding me back from being committed?Is what I’m seeing and experiencing enough to show that I’m following Jesus? Am I living out my faith in a way that pleases Him?

I am usually very transactional in my relationship with God. I know what’s happening and God is aware of it, and we are working on it. God does not want us to rely on Him for our needs in the same way that we rely on other people. Most of us are transactional with Him – “do for me and I’ll do for You”. He wants us to feel close to Him by developing a love relationship with Him. He loves us and has chosen to make us His children.This type of relationship is often exhausting and can leave us feeling disappointed. Come with me and let’s join together in a loving relationship with Jesus. From that relationship everything flows.

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  1. Follow me is a call to change

But there’s more in the words, “follow me” for us to glean. It’s a call to fellowship with Jesus, but that fellowship is fellowship on the move. It’s a call to action, to obedience, to direction, to change.

Jesus said to Peter, you’ve been a fisher of fish, I will make you a fisher of men. Major change! Peter didn’t say, “can I keep everything the way it is and just slap a ‘fish’ bumper sticker on my boat?” Follow me meant a change of direction and priorities for Peter and it does for us too. Follow me means our priorities and direction gets realigned with Jesus’ priorities and direction for our lives.

I’m going to talk more about the Challenge of Change in a future message, but sometimes we get spiritually stuck, not because we can’t change, not because we don’t know how to change, but let’s be honest, because we don’t want to change. We want to follow Jesus wherever he goes, we just want to stay where we are while doing it. We want to make forward progress, we just don’t want to have to move. We want change that doesn’t change what we want. And it doesn’t work that way.

Follow me is a call to change and this is where the Bible hits the road.

If someone is harsh or unkind to someone, Jesus wants to lead them to be kind and patient with them. That’s not just words or a concept, it’s action. It’s change. It’s not a change we can bring about without the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God, but it’s also not a change that’s going to happen by the Holy Spirit and the word of God until we answer “yes” to Jesus’ call to follow him.

Classrooms can teach us what it means to obey God, but real life is where we learn to obey God.

If someone is a bad steward of their finances and has racked up a huge debt, Jesus wants to lead them into good stewardship. So we pray and ask God to give us more money to pay off our debt and God answers our prayers by saying “no”. I’m not going to give you more money because you’re a bad steward of what you have. Follow me by learning from my word how to be a good steward of your finances.

I know this can easily slip into a Nike Christianity mentality: just do it! Legalism leads us to think we can do these things for God in our own power. But the opposite of Nike Christianity is Netflix Christianity – we sit on a couch and watch for God to do it.

I enjoy watching a good movie or TV show as much as the next person. And there have been shows that have been so engrossing that I’m like, “what’s going to happen? I can’t wait to find out…” I have binged watched – I admit it! But those shows – whatever show you’re “into” right now – aren’t real life. Even if it’s reality TV it’s not real life. The problem is it can become a substitute for real life if we’re not careful. We can withdraw from a lot of that annoying stuff going on out there and curl up on our couch and watch other people live their lives. We watch them work out their problems, laugh at their foibles, hope they catch the bad guy, and our hearts are warmed as they work through their conflicts and forge deep and meaningful friendships. And you know as well as I do that this can become a big part of our lives: what we look forward to, what we think about, what we’re committed to.

On one extreme we have Nike Christianity and on the other we have Netflix Christianity. Jesus says, follow me. It was important that the disciples followed Jesus into real life circumstances for them to get to know who he really was. It’s just as important for us today. Jesus doesn’t say just do it. But he also doesn’t say sit and watch me do it. Jesus says walk with me, and as we follow him, our direction is changed: from anger to patience. From impurity to purity. From selfishness to love. From bad stewardship to good stewardship. It’s not easy. It’s discipleship, lived out in the messy, annoying, inconvenient context of real life. Follow me is a call to change.

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  1. Follow me is a call to walk together in fellowship

“Follow me” also means we walk together with each other. Following Jesus meant the disciples had to walk together with him. That’s what church is: brothers and sisters in Christ walking with Jesus together.

I think this challenges us to look at church perhaps a little differently than what we’re used to. Remember the mission and the vision of the church is to be disciples that make disciples. To grow as disciples and to go to help others grow. We can’t grow without going and we will do a lousy job of going if we aren’t growing.

This means church is all of us growing and all of us going. As we see discipleship as a journey, we don’t expect ourselves or others to advance 100 miles with one leap. The question becomes: What’s the next step in this journey?

Behind the scenes some of us are working on the church structure and process to do a better job of helping people take that next step. We want to make some tangible changes – I believe the Lord is leading us to make some tangible changes.

Here’s my ask of you (and I’m going to be blunt): don’t wait for the change, be a part of the change! You are the church. You are the one who can help the person next to you take that next step in their discipleship journey. You are the one who can help an unbeliever consider the claims of Jesus maybe for the first time in their life. You are the one who can be that connection someone else needed to feel cared for. You are the one whose influence can be the difference in a young believer’s life.

You might be the one who can lead a ministry, a community group, a bible study, or some other context to help people grow in their faith. You might be the one who can lead the church in worship! And if you’re not the one, you can be the one who prays with me.

What’s the next step in the discipleship journey? We all should be asking that, not only for ourselves (growing), but for what we can do to help others take that next step (going).

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Follow me – Jesus is with you, draw near to him in humble fellowship. Ask him to show you what steps he has for you to see change in. And look around for ways you can help others take their next step in the discipleship journey.

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