Chapter 9: Discipleship


Have you ever asked yourself the question as to how much light you shine for Jesus? The only way to determine the intensity of your light is to start reading the New Testament. We must compare our “little gospel light” with those who were intensely evangelistic.   Any other standard by which you would judge the light of your discipleship is misguided and twisted.   One would certainly not judge his discipleship by the lives of other disciples, for other disciples are asking the same question of themselves. We must keep in mind that the discipleship of men as Paul was recorded by the Holy Spirit for our comparisons. Remember, “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Co 11:1)? We must not compare ourselves with ourselves as some arrogant disciples did in Corinth (2 Co 10:12). It was to these that Paul mandated that they follow him in his sacrificial life as a disciple. Today, we must go to the source, straight to the dictionary on discipleship. And in doing this, we come up with some distorted disciples in the first century, for the Holy Spirit also wanted us to see how others become lukewarm and twisted, thinking all the time that they were faithful. It might be good to review some of these disciples in order to guard ourselves from becoming the same. The Holy Spirit had the life-styles of these disciples recorded in order that we avoid being sidetracked to a religiosity that we have created after our own imagination, or the misguided behavior of those who claim to be “Christian,” but are not.

 I.  “Candle disciples”:

 Ever blown out the candles on a birthday cake?   Candles are easy to blow out, even when there is a group of them on top of a cake. They are easy to extinguish, because they are frail lights that give off little light by themselves.

There are a great deal of halfhearted disciples who give little light, and when times get tough, they are easily blown out by the trials of life. Remember this judgment of Jesus that He pronounced on the disciples in Laodicea?

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth (Rv 3:15,16).

In some disciples, Jesus is certainly present.   But they follow Jesus only as it is convenient to their life-styles. And then in some, He is prominent. But He is usually preeminent in only a few Christians. The problem about being a lukewarm disciple is that when tough times come, there is not enough spiritual steam to take one up the hill. In the parable of the Sower, we must not forget the seed that was sown in stony places (Mt 13:1-23). One cannot miss the meaning of Jesus’ interpretation of His own parable.

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.   However, he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away (Mt 13:20,21).

 II.  “Kerosene lamp disciples”:

Some might refer to this type of lamp as a hurricane lamp. This is the type of lamp that has a glass enclosure in which the flame burns. The problem with the lamp is that the glass becomes obscured by smoke, and eventually the lamp gives off little light. The glass must continually be cleaned for the lamp to accomplish its purpose.

Those to whom the Hebrew writer wrote were “kerosene lamp” disciples. They had burned for a lengthy time, but by the time of the writing of Hebrews, they were “smoked up.” The Holy Spirit thus said of them, “About whom we have many things to say, and hard to explain, seeing you have become dull of hearing (Hb 5:11). One becomes dull of hearing the word of God when his mind is turned to something else. His discipleship becomes religiously habitual. This is the curse of a legalistic system of theology. The adherents to such a theology simply accomplish their legal checks on what they are supposed to do, and then mentally check out.

When one becomes dull of hearing, he turns God off and follows after his own religiosity. He actually ceases to be a disciple, for discipleship means “to follow.”   No true disciple will become dull of following if he continually seeks to clean his soul with the word of God.   However, Paul wrote of some disciples who would turn away from the word of God.

Now the Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons … (1 Tm 4:1).

These are as dogs returning to their own vomit of sin, and pigs, after they have been washed, returning to wallowing in the mire of degradation (See 2 Pt 2:20-22). Peter identified these disciples.

 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning (2 Pt 2:20).

There is only one prevention from returning to the dirt of sin. Peter explained, “… as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word so that you may grow up to salvation” (1 Pt 2:2). We have found that those who are not zealous Bible students are continually allowing their light to grow dim because “the glass is dirty.” If there is no growth through the study of the word of God, then our glass is becoming dirty with our own religious smoke.   Therefore, the Holy Spirit exhorts every disciple to “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18).

 III.  “Gas lamp disciples”:

Much of Africa still lights up the night with a gas lamp. It burns for a period of time, and then needs to be pumped up again. Throughout its use for a period of time there is the necessity of pumping it up in order that it continually gives light.

Some Christians are like this. They need someone else to pump them up continually with enthusiasm before they will shine. There is no consistency in their lives as a light for the gospel. Though everyone needs to be pumped up with enthusiasm periodically, we must be on guard with ourselves that we do not need to be continually encouraged in order to be a witness for Christ. If we do, then we are probably thinking mostly of ourselves and not of those who really need encouragement. “Gas lamp disciples” have not assumed their responsibility to pump up others. Since they are always low on “spiritual pressure,” they have nothing to offer to others.

Enthusiasm certainly inspires enthusiasm.   We want to be around the truly optimistic individual who thrives with an optimistic and enthusiastic spirit. We want to be around such a person in order to have our own batteries recharged. If we are the type of person who inspires others, then the spirit of Christ is truly working in our hearts. The small pamphlet, Attitudes Unlimited, was once distributed among businessmen in America. It was circulated in order to identify and encourage successful leadership. In one issue the statement was made,

As we examine the lives of those who have risen to great heights in their chosen fields of endeavor, we find a very definite indication that success is actually due less to one’s ability than to the enthusiastic drive behind the objective.

And when we think of the objective that was set before the early disciples, we can understand Acts 5:42:

And daily in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Paul was such a person. He was willing, with whatever thorn in the flesh hindered him, to accomplish the God-given destiny that was set before him.

I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also who are at Rome (Rm 1:14,15).

Determination will result in goals accomplished. The accomplishment of our goals depends more on our earnest determination than on our skills. The truly successful person is not the one who has the most gifts, but the one who exercises the most enthusiasm in his life to use his gift.

Have you ever said of some energetic Christian, “He is sure ‘pumped up’ on Jesus”? Now how do you suppose he became “pumped up” on Jesus? It is true that when one finally realizes that Jesus is the Son of God, and then goes to the cross with Him, into the tomb of water, and finally out of the water of baptism, he is usually burning with zeal.   But we have also noticed that some new disciples just run out of steam. They do so because they failed to implement in their lives the principle that Jesus taught in John 13:17. Jesus said to His disciples after He had just washed their feet, If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” “Know” without “do” equals lukewarmness … spewed out … death (Rv 3:15,16). Those who are “pumped up” on Jesus are that way because they went to work as a disciple while they were still dripping wet from the waters of baptism. They were truly baptized “into Christ,” wherein there is work to be done. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we should walk in them” (Ep 2:10). If one does not do the work of a disciple, then he is not a disciple, for disciples find a towel and start looking for dirty feet. We can always find a “pumped up” disciple by the dirty towel that is in his hand.

 IV.  “Stop light disciples”:

What driver is there who is not occasionally irritated with stop lights (robots). Once the traffic gets rolling, then the light turns to yellow, and then red. The entire flow of traffic must come to a stop at the command of a stop light.

Every disciple will encounter “stop light” resistance throughout his or her life. Stop lights usually come through those who turn aside from the truth of God’s word. Paul identified two of these “stop light” characters in 2 Timothy 3:8: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth ….” As Moses had men stand in the way of his ministry, so it will be with every disciple who seeks to carry out the will of the Lord in his life. Such resistance may come from a spouse, a friend, or those who are simply “on and off” as disciples.   Some will simply oppose one’s efforts to do good as Alexander opposed Paul in Ephesus. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil. May the Lord reward him according to his works” (2 Tm 4:14).

Some “stop light” people are deceptive in their efforts to discourage others. Ever hear the statement, “Let me play the devil’s advocate on this point”? We need no devils among us who hinder the work of God. Others will say, “I have some constructive criticism.” What they really want to do is throw up a red light in order to discourage. It is like a woman who came out of a store and saw a car rolling down a hill. The door of the car was open, so she jumped in and hit the brakes. A gentleman came up from behind the car, and she said to him, “Well, I sure got it stopped.” The gentleman replied, “I know. I was trying to push it to get it started.” To such people who would act in such a way in reference to the work of God in the lives of others, we would repeat what Paul said to the Thessalonian disciples: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Th 5:19).

 V.  “Blinker light disciples”:

These would be those disciples who are on and off in their work for Jesus. These disciples can always be identified by their attendance with the disciples.   They are there and then gone, or there spasmodically. When the appointed assembly of the saints comes around, the church cannot depend on their presence because they may not be present. The “on and off” Christian has a problem with commitment to the family of God. He sometimes has a problem with living the disciplined life as a Christian. One unbeliever once said, “I think I would have become a Christian if I had not met so many people who said they were Christians.”

If our lives reflect a lack of commitment and consistency as a disciple of Jesus, then our behavior actually turns people away from Christ. No disciple who truly understands what Jesus did on the cross is an “on and off” disciple.   Someone once said, “Live as if Christ died yesterday, was resurrected this morning, and is coming tomorrow.”   We must be a consistent light for Jesus.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Mt 5:16).

Notice that the passage says “so shine.” “So shine” means that there must be some quality to the light, which light must also be consistent before the world. It is not light that is placed under a basket on one day, and then on a lampstand the next day (Mt 5:14,15). It is consistent light. Blinker disciples do more harm than good for the kingdom because the world sees them as “halfhearted” disciples who pretend to follow Jesus.

 VI.  “Lighthouse disciples”:

What someone said about the disciple who shines forth the light of Jesus in his life, was true: “A Christian should be a breathing prayer, a living poem, a visible spirit, and a human lighthouse.”   This is the light that should so shine that others can see the glory of God through our spirit. Truthful was the poet who wrote the old poem, “The Gospel According to You.”

 There’s a gospel according to Matthew;

To Mark and to Luke and to John too,

There’s another that many are reading,

The gospel according to you.

 Everyday you are writing your gospel;

In this life you may never know who,

May be helped or hindered by reading,

The gospel according to you.

Many read not the words of the Bible;

I will tell you what most of them do,

They are reading the book you are writing,

The gospel according to you.

 There’s power in the minister’s preaching;

But the thing that may be most telling,

Is the gospel according to you.

 This was the life-style of the Thessalonian disciples, for less than six months after they were converted to Jesus, it was written of them:

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to speak anything (1 Th 1:8).

No better example could have been given to every disciple than the preceding testimony. And no better advice could have been given than what someone once said below:

Leave footprints of righteousness on the sands of time where you live so that other generations may have the lamp of truth by plain example.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: Does your school teacher know that you are a Christian? Do those with whom you work know that you are a Christian? Do all your relatives know that you are a Christian?   And if you had to go to heaven on the testimony of those who know you, would you make it? The Reader’s Digest once repeated the quote, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It is simply not what we profess that makes us a disciple of Jesus, but what we practice.   Faith will bring us to Christ.   Life will prove our endurance for Christ. And once we have been proved and tested, death will bring a crown from Christ.

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