The Call to Discipleship
as the purity of our motives in following Him”
“My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad”
The wise in heart ponder their ways before the Lord. With the passage of time, for the true disciple, there is a discretion that develops within those who hold to His leadings. This discretion is the fruit of experience and God’s correction. That which is lawful and permitted may not always be the wise choice. Wisdom guides and girds the heart for those who are determined to please God.
“All things are permissible but not all things are profitable or expedient. All things are permissible, but not all things promote growth in Christian character”
1 Corinthians 10:23 (Wuest)
The world, both religious and secular, offers many things; broad paths, amusements and temporal diversions. Yet the wise walk with hearts fixed upon pleasing Him who has called them unto Himself. To true disciples of Christ this is not a religious law or teaching; it is the joy of His Life beating within. There is little desire to appear spiritual to others, for those who seek the approval of men already have their reward. Wisdom is the pure fruit of the fear of the Lord. It is the fragrance of a life which seeks to honor Him. In its way men and women find great treasures; hidden treasures which more than compensate for His correction and discipline. Paul, in setting forth the true way of the Lord to his “son” Timothy, declared:
“No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, so that he might please the one having enlisted him”
2 Timothy 2:4
Purity of heart in a young recruit could best be described as having a single purpose. The great Shepherd of our souls directs us into a purity where we become free from our own agendas; we intuitively choose the things which please Him because we have learned and are being instructed in the Way of Righteousness.
“And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”
True Discipleship is the fruit of Love. Christ’s hold upon any life are determined by the tenacity of the bonds of His Love upon the human heart. Many may be devoted to a teacher, a prophet, an organization, a great cause or doctrine, but genuine disciples hold within their hearts a devotion borne and sustained by the sheer power of the Love of Christ.
“The disciple is not above his master:
but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”
The “marks*” of His disciples are a growing likeness to the Master. There is a distinct mark upon those who diligently “follow the Lamb wheresoever HE goes”. There is a detachment from the popular, the ethos of factions, or the press to conform to the dictates of a church or small fellowship. It is a life fully captivated by the wonder of Him.
“And as He passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphæus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed Him”
Those who truly hear the call and feel the power of a love beyond comprehension know this abandonment to Him. They know not where He will lead, they care not where He will lead. In reality they are no longer their own.
is the response
to seeing HIM.
The price of Discipleship? Loneliness, misunderstanding and persecution.
The prize of Discipleship? His joy resident in our hearts.
“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it:
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love,
it would utterly be contemned”
Song of songs 8:6
*Note: Paul considered the scars borne in his body as the “marks” of the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:17) The Greek word translated “marks” actually means “brands” which denote the ownership of Christ.
“From henceforth let no man trouble me:
for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”
“He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man”
“He becomes poor that deals with a slack hand”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”
We can see from a small sampling of the scriptures that there is a wide variety of poverty spoken of in the scriptures. There is the blessedness of a poverty which is of the Spirit of God whereby men and women are able to glorify God and there are other forms of poverty which are the result of faithlessness and worldly seeking. The church in our day is filled with an assortment of all of these and how sad that with many it is the result of apathy and lethargy. It is a crisis of great proportion. We are forewarned by the Word of God of such a day in which we live. It speaks of iniquity (lawlessness) abounding causing the love of many to grow cold and indifferent to the things of God. It speaks of a generation who have become wise in their own eyes and have become proud of heart, dull of hearing and spiritually blinded to the tempest which is about to break over the whole earth.
“And because lawlessness will be increased,
the love of many will grow cold”
The scripture preceding the above tells us the predominate cause of this growing lawlessness.
“Many false prophets will appear
and deceive many people”
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”
2 Peter 2:1-2
Jesus and later Peter are not speaking of the world here, they are speaking of His Church which will allow damnable heresies and false prophets who speak for hire and gain, false teachers who will teach pleasant things to draw the people unto themselves and their organizations, and the preaching of a false gospel which renders sin acceptable and provides a sympathetic ear to those who love and pursue its pleasures.
The world without the light of Christ shining from His own grows darker and darker even unto the point of debauchery and degradation. If the church ceases to be a light hell and death will rule over all. There is a poverty of spiritual things which has nothing to do with the Spirit of God. This ethos will produce a gospel in word but utterly lacking the vitality, life and the glory of God. It is a poverty brought about by loose living, worldly seeking and ambitious men and women who seek their own (in the name of God) and not the things of God.
“Many will follow their immoral ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned. In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber. For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Hell, and committed them to pits of darkness to be reserved for judgment”
2 Peter 2:2-4
In the verses preceding these it is clear Peter is seeking to warn God’s people of these things. Declaring to us that God did not spare the angels when they sinned and how (in the verses which follow) brings this same truth of judgment into the earth where we live. There is within such a generation a lack of the fear of the Lord and His return is spoken of with scoffing and indifference. God’s answer to such a generation? Unanswered prayers, religious meetings without the fire and wonder of God, and a gospel which is in word only without power and authority. This is a poverty brought about by the judgment and counsel of God Himself.
God’s Judgments are the Sign of His Love
Yet God’s pronouncement of such things are sent to us in hope; a hope which seeks to stir within His people a seeking of His face through repentance and brokenness of heart. God’s judgments to His Own are ever redemptive in design and merciful in intent. It is here where the true in heart find a poverty of spirit which brings His greatest blessings and becomes the matrix from which His riches flow!
God’s warning to us is often and exceedingly clear as to what will transpire in these last days in His own people…
“But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, not lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power. from such turn away”
2 Timothy 3:1-4
Let us consider these different forms of poverty of which the scriptures speak that we may be instructed to stand in this evil day and discover the beauty and blessedness of the true poverty of spirit by which the Kingdom of God becomes ours.
“…in everything commending ourselves as servants of God”
2 Corinthians 6:4
“Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks”
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
Then said I, here am I; send me”
In other words, who will represent Me (God) in godliness, righteousness and show forth my character in all their ways. It is one thing to have a dream, a word or a gift. It is another thing entirely to reveal the very character of God Himself.
True Leadership in God’s house exists when His call is fused with character and quality of being. Had David rejoiced in Saul’s death he would not have been a “man after God’s heart”. Had Moses, when God tested him to stand aside while God destroyed Israel to make Moses a great nation, agreed to such a proposal he would have utterly failed to represent God’s heart. Had David slain Saul when God presented the divine opportunity to seize the Kingdom by carnal means he would have failed to represent the heart of God. Those who are called to places of authority will know of such testings and it is in knowing His heart that the approval of God is gained. The Gifts of God without the character of God will always lack His authority and His approval. The gifts may bring a vessel honor and fame in this world but they will never gain the approval of God. There will always be an emptiness which will haunt the disobedient and gifted one.
Within God’s House there are vessels of honor and dishonor.
“But in a great house
there are not only vessels of gold and of silver,
but also of wood and of earth;
and some to honor, and some to dishonor”
2 Timothy 2:20
In the verse preceding this one Paul states… “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity”. This is the true test of the authentic vessels of the Lord. Saul prophesied and Balaam prophesied an infallible word of God yet they were perverse in heart and spirit.
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots”
These are blemishes within the assembly of God’s people. They may function in gifts, ministries, and places of leadership and yet be utterly false in the eyes of the Lord (Matthew 7:21-23). They may see and hear right things but it is by their fruits they are known; how they conduct themselves and whether or not they seek the welfare of God’s people even in the face of adversity and rejection.
“Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
The true ministrations of God approve themselves by their conduct in all phases of life.
“Who will go for us?”
This is a far more penetrating question than many realize. It is a question which has more to do with who we are than what we do or say.
“Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall SEE God”
“God’s plan is to make much of the man,
far more of him than of anything else.
Men are God’s method.
The Church is looking for better methods;
God is looking for better men”
― E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer
“So then death worketh in us,
but life in you”
2 Corinthians 4:12
The radical nature of the Kingdom of God is one of mystery and paradox; it is contrary to the constitution of natural man. Entering into it requires the death and renunciation of the self-life in order to touch the wonder of its power. The very LIFE of the Kingdom of God is only available in Jesus. There is “salvation in no other name” and there is LIFE in no other. He ALONE is the Kingdom and He ALONE is the Way into the Kingdom. He is the TRUTH of the Kingdom and He is the LIFE of the Kingdom.
“For the Jews require a sign,
and the Greeks seek after wisdom”
1 Corinthians 1:22
Here Paul sums up the inclinations of the world and the people of God. His people desired signs and wonders and others sought “wisdom” (Greek word “sophia” from which we derive the word philosophy*). The nature of the heart of man has not changed. God’s Kingdom will not be found by these means for Paul goes on in the very next verse of scripture:
“But we preach Christ crucified,
unto the Jews a stumblingblock,
and unto the Greeks foolishness”
1 Corinthians 1:23
Christ crucified is the pivotal point upon which the entire purposes of God rest. The Way into this Kingdom is dependent upon the extent of our identification and participation in His death being worked out in our lives. The corresponding revelation of His Life in us will be to the degree of “death” being worked into us. This happens through the operation of His Holy Spirit combined with our own will yielding in true discipleship. Smooth words, elaborate teachings and overt signs and wonders will never replace the power of a crucified life. It is in this place that God’s work must culminate if we would enter into the wonder of His Life. Again Paul continues:
“But unto them which are called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God,
and the wisdom of God”
1 Corinthians 1:24
It is in those who are called that this revelation is made known. The nature of a call requires a response and the call to discipleship is predicated with an “if”. The “if” allows a free-will response from the individual. Entrance into the Kingdom is not by words, understanding, or signs and wonders but by the crucible of the Cross.
“For we which live
are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake,
that the life also of Jesus
might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”
2 Corinthians 4:11
The end and purpose of all life is “…that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”.
*NOTE: Contained within the Greek language are differing words for knowledge and love. The word for Philosophy comes from two Greek words (φίλος- philos) and (σοφία-sophia). Philos is one of three main Greek words for Love; agape, philos, and eros. Each speak to a realm or a sphere of love. Eros is a love which proceeds from the flesh and in turn loves fleshly things. Philos is a love which originates from the soul; it speaks of friendship and affection and when combined with (σοφία-sophia) we end up with the word philosophy: man’s love for wisdom and knowledge. It is a knowledge which may sound deep and good but leaves those who hold it weak and ineffective in the ministration of His life. God’s end is Agape – it is His love ruling, leading and holding us to His ways and purposes. God’s love cannot rest in anything which is contrary to His nature. It is the One over-riding motive which can produce discipleship within the heart of an individual. Peter’s love (philos) failed for man’s affection will never hold a heart true in times of testing.
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men,
but in the power of God”
1 Corinthians 2:5
“Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”
The depth of our walk in the Spirit of God is revealed in the freedom we have from fulfilling the lusts and desires of the flesh. This scripture is not a teaching it is really a simple statement of truth. The natural man hates the truth for the truth leaves no room for compromise. The natural man, that carnal self with all of its deception and lies, cannot be saved. Its nature is corrupt to the core and God’s answer is not to be found in anything but crucifixion.
“For the mind of the flesh is death,
but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace;
because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God;
for it is not subject to the law of God,
for neither can it be”
When Jesus spoke of an individual becoming a disciple He conditioned it with an “if” which speaks of a voluntary choice made by His own. It is not an arbitrary statement; it is the essential and indispensable requirement to come to the place of thinking rightly towards God. Salvation is not a teaching or a formula whereby someone says the right things; it is the very transformation of an individual’s thinking. Without this ongoing process men and women are mere adherents to a teaching rather than living branches partaking of His Life.
“And be not conformed to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,
and perfect, will of God”
Why does the mind need to be renewed by the process of His transforming life within our hearts? To the end we may “prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God”! Those who bypass this process will go through life never fully being able to know God’s will for their lives. The cross is the essential instrument in this work of transformation. Those who circumvent the way of discipleship have no ability to discern between good and evil. They may be able to understand things on a doctrinal level but when it comes to the deceptive works of spiritual darkness they will be ill equipped to know that which is of God from that which is borne of the flesh and the dark work of fallen spirits.
God has not left us without the knowledge of the depth and surety of our walk in Him.
“Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”
Paul goes on in this same chapter to explain unto the Church at Galatia what the works of the flesh look like:
“Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed,
which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness,
lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies,
angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders,
drunkennesses, wild parties, and things like these;
of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before,
that the ones practicing such things
will not inherit the kingdom of God”
Do we have jealously? Envy? Uncleanness? Divisions? Lust? These are the works of the flesh. If we are walking in the Spirit of God we are freed from such things. The workings of the cross and the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus are making us free. Let us not deceive ourselves with the horror of the modern day “gospel” for His word tells us if we do these things we will “not inherit the Kingdom of God”. Let us not assume that because we know something we possess it, or because we started out well we are no longer under obligation to carry the cross and remain lifelong disciples of our Lord and Saviour. It is to this end we live to follow Him alone who can make us free from the plague of the self-life. It is in the crucifixion of self that we are made free. We must realize that truth is not a teaching or a scripture on the page of a book; truth is His Life living and ruling in me.
“And ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free”
What is the measure of truth at work within an individual? It is the degree to which we are made free to walk and live in His Spirit. The journey into truth begins with the revelation of our desperate need for Him. Truth reveals man’s inherent need for change and it is in the discovery of this that men and women turn their hearts to the One alone who is able to do this. Those who cling to teachings and doctrines will perish in the powerlessness of religion. Truth is a person and His Name is Jesus. In Him we are made free, in Him we become new creations of His Glory and Majesty and in Him we enter into the Kingdom of God.
“Little children, let no man deceive you:
he that doeth righteousness is righteous,
even as He is righteous”
1 John 3:7
“Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit;
so shall ye be my disciples”
Life for the Christian is one of living out each day with a single agenda: Glorifying our Father. Simplicity is the very thing that confounds the religious and brings Joy to the disciple of Christ. To glorify our Father is to simply live to bear fruit unto Him every day of our lives. It can be in the small kindness shown to others, speaking His Word of Truth to another, or living with the breath of a prayer in our hearts to Him. It is the unconscious flow of daily life and as we grow it becomes a life of doing. To fully learn something will result in the simplicity of doing it. He is more desirous to direct our steps and lead us into the very arena of HIS WILL than we are to learn. If there is a true desire to do His will there will always be the knowing of what that will is.
“…If any man will do his will, he shall know…”
Fruitfulness and Discipleship cannot be separated. We read in John 15:8 that bearing fruit unto the Father is the badge of life for one who is a Disciple. A Disciple is simply one who gives up his will to serve another. The Disciples became Apostles, the common people became Prophets and Teachers, and the servants of God became men and women who were called “friends” of the Most High. They grew from outward instruction to the inward knowing of His Will. A true Disciple cannot remain a disciple. Discipleship is the school of learning and as such the day must come for the disciple to cease from needing bread to becoming bread for others. Jesus SENT out His Disciples so that they could learn to live in the wisdom that can only come through the medium of doing.
There are those who say they would bear fruit if the opportunity arose, if the conditions were right, or if God would only give them more ability. Religion shapes a strange concept of God when men think that God has withheld from them the ability to Glorify Him! Jesus said that HE came in order for us to HAVE LIFE and to HAVE THIS LIFE ABUNDANTLY. This is either a true and valid saying or it is just another empty religious platitude. If being a Christian is simply adherence to a teaching or a tradition, then we are left with a form of righteousness but no power to be actual living expressions. Disciples are those who are actively walking, following and doing the things they hear and see in Him. This is no theoretical life; it is actual and real because Jesus is alive and working in their hearts. The very heart beat of His Life constrains them to a life of focus and seeking to do His will. The desire to glorify our Father is the chief duty and purpose of all life. The reward is too precious to miss any opportunity afforded us. What is this reward? It is “The Joy of the Lord”. Bearing fruit brings the realization that in glorifying Him we can know of HIS JOY in us which becomes our strength to grow in the wonder of His Ways.
“…but the people that do know their God
shall be strong, and do exploits*”
*NOTE: Literally in the Hebrew the word “exploits” is not there; the verse actually says “shall be strong and do”. They that know their God shall be strong and DO. It is a daily opportunity for us to be strong and to do of His good pleasure.
“And let us consider one another
to provoke unto love and to good works”
“But if by the Spirit you put to death
the deeds of the body,
you will live.”
Life; it is the purpose for which the SON has come.
“I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly”
Jesus did not come to introduce to the world a new teaching, a new religion or a philosophy. He came to destroy the works of the devil and to bring LIFE to His fallen creation. Life does not consist of knowing something or knowing about a thing. LIFE, true life, consists of abiding in HIM.
We read here in Romans 8 that LIFE is known by those who “by the Spirit” are enabled to put the deeds of the body to death. Life is realized by overcoming the deeds of our body by the operation of HIS SPIRIT within our lives. The call to “discipleship” IS the call to life. The CROSS, being the very instrument of death, in our walk with God becomes the very PRINCIPLE by which HIS LIFE is discovered. While the “church” today is overloaded with teachings, sermons, “resources” and programs she is in fact worldly; compromised and powerless in the realms of victory over sin and carnality. More sermons, teachings and conferences will not avail us one iota of the wonders of HIS LIFE. Getting the latest revelation from the multitude of “prophets”* and “apostles”* will not bring this precious resource to the human heart. For the LIFE that JESUS gives is the very life of resurrection. It is a life that arises from the principle of death. It is a life that pulsates with the ability to overcome and reign in Christ Jesus our Lord. On the cross Jesus himself was reigning in a life that conquered death and the grave. It is a life that is undefeatable and eternal in the scope and power of all it holds in its sway. It speaks of something that is beyond the comprehension of men, beyond what we can imagine, consider or even has “entered into the heart of man”.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared
for them that love him”
1 CORINTHIANS 2:9
This LIFE is not to be discovered by simply knowing the scriptures; being able to quote them, expound upon them and claim them as our own. That precious written word bears witness of JESUS. It is the ONE central thought of the whole New Covenant…JESUS THE CHRIST, THE ONLY BEGOTTON SON.
“Search the scriptures;
for in them ye think ye have eternal life:
and they are they which testify of me.
And ye will not come to me,
that ye might have life”
It is in the coming to HIM we have life. When the HOLY SPIRIT has such sway within our lives that we can by the very power of God put to death the deeds of our own body we HAVE LIFE. It is in the participation and partaking of the “Divine Nature” that we are made free from the horror of self and that old Adamic Nature. How long will the people of God be content with hearing about this life, sermons on what it looked like in someone else, without the very CRY for it to become the pulse of our own?
We read of that “exceeding abundant” dynamic of God’s power at work toward us BEING “according” (in proportion) to the power that is at work in us! The only limitation to HIS LIFE working in us is our cooperation in HIS WILL. The Cross is simply the Will of God walked out in my life. Teaching, as important as it is, will never be a substitute for OBEDIENCE.
“Now unto him that is able to do
above all that we ask or think,
according to the power that worketh in us”
The validity that we are truly HIS is revealed by those who know the deep and painful inworking and outworking of the CROSS.
“And they that are Christ’s
have crucified the flesh
with the affections and lusts”
This is the stamp of the ownership of Christ within the LIFE of HIS OWN. This call to the experiential co-crucifixion with Christ is the one thing that destroys within us the propagation of self and the desire for self-realization. The same CROSS, that leaves the debris of self and the associated bondage of all that goes with it strewn along the path of the ardent disciple, is also the matrix from which His Life is manifested through our fragile earthen vessels.
While men chase after the latest “miracle worker”, and thousands of sermons and teaching go forth every day, there remains the eternal call of the Spirit of God to DISCIPLESHIP. “If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself and pick up his cross and follow me.”
To those who are weary and heavy laden with the words, and the never ending flow of information and resources, the promise of Jesus stands as an open door beckoning us to “come to Him” and we will have rest for our souls.
Can we hear the fresh call to the simplicity of discipleship? Can we see beyond the horror and pain of the death that the cross would work in us? Can we see past the agony, humiliation and suffering of all that it would bring and to see HIS LOVELY FACE SHINING IN THE GLORY OF THE UNDIMMED LIGHT OF HIS LIFE?
“Looking unto Jesus
the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is set down
at the right hand of the throne of God”
*NOTE This is not to diminish any true ministry in the Body of Christ however hearing without doing is but vain religion.