Discipleship: Finding Out Who You Were Created To Be

Discipleship is not only knowing Christ as Lord and exalting Him, it is putting ourselves in a position with our Savior, Creator, and Lord for Him to reveal to us who we truly are in Him!  As we make disciples we help others understand who they are in Christ and help them fulfill all He has created and called them to be—in life, in relationships, in community, and in culture.

How then can we make discipleship not only a priority but also a reality in our homes and churches? 

Of course, we turn to God’s Word.  I implore you to take to heart these principles and daily practice these disciplines found in His Word, as they are imperative to becoming His disciple and making disciples of others.

Here are four key principles needed as priorities for your personal development as His disciple.  Note that not one single principle will come naturally to you. That’s why it’s called discipleship; it requires the discipline of His indwelling Holy Spirit giving us the strength by faith to walk in line with His commands and to overcome the selfish desires of our own natural, fleshly lusts:

1. Honorable Submission – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)  Paul tells us just before laying out God’s Covenant Order for relationships in marriage, family, church, and community, that the key to every good relationship begins with our honor for Christ.  In our reverence for Him we are then able to submit to others.  I don’t know about you, but truly submitting to others was impossible for me until I learned to submit to Him.  This is the essence of discipleship.

2. Honest Surrender – “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:7-9) 

Look at Paul’s instruction here for Godly living, or discipleship in Christ.  First we must be brutally honest with ourselves: You (understood pronoun) don’t deceive yourself (bold emphasis mine and added). Deception is easy to do in my flesh.  Over time His Spirit calls me away from this self-deception to integrity and honesty that is impossible to do in my selfish flesh. 

We need to know this or we will convince ourselves that by attending church, giving some money, and serving from time to time, or worse, deception that justifies our sinful thoughts and choices.  The former are all good things and we need to do them, but they can be just actions of a fleshly heart seeking favor or attention from others rather than a heart truly surrendered to Christ.  Do not deceive yourself. The only way we can know and grow as His disciples is to honestly evaluate our motives, thoughts, and decisions and make sure they are surrendered to His Spirit and will.  And as we remain patient and persevere in this honest surrender, we will reap His harvest if we don’t give up. That’s discipleship.

3. Holy Sacrifice – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:1-3) 

Pay attention here as I suspect that many of you, like myself and many others I’ve shared this with, initially glossed over something incredibly important in this text.  It is clear that Paul, through the Holy Spirit, is calling us as disciples to sacrifice our life to God.  What I so often missed was that this is not a salvation command, it is a post-salvation one.  Paul is begging us to take what Christ has made “holy and pleasing to God” and surrender it back to God. 

It is not our sacrifice that makes us holy and pleasing; it is His sacrifice that has already done that.  Our job in fulfilling our calling to discipleship is to take what He has made right in God’s eyes and faithfully and sacrificially return it to Him for His Glory.  The only difference between the Old Testament sacrifices and what we are called to in the New Testament under the grace of Christ is that we can choose to get up and walk away from the altar.  Our sacrifice has to be of our own free will, but make no mistake it is what we are called to as His disciples.

He even tells us how we are to do this: Don’t conform (think or do things according) to the world or culture, instead; transform the way you think and act in line with God’s Word. 

He then encourages us with an assurance if we will choose to be a Holy Sacrifice.  We will be living, walking proof of God’s good and perfect will.  We will live it and others will see it.  But be careful because as this happens, if we’re not alert to the enemy, we can begin to think “too highly of ourselves.” 

How do we counter this as we walk as Christ’s disciples?  In humility we obey the command to take the time to honestly think about who we are, and know that God has given each one of us the faith to do just that as His disciples.  This leads to our fourth discipleship principle.

4. Humble Service – “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (completely/fully – emphasis mine and added)…Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:1, 3-5; 12-17; Philippians 2:3-8. 

These Scriptures and principles are prevalent throughout this book with regard to relationship, marriage, family, and relational servant-leadership.  I introduce them here because, as stated earlier, every relationship begins with our disciple relationship with Christ as Lord. His teaching and modeling lays the foundation and sets the stage for our discipleship walk in Him.  With that said, I describe here the principle of humble service required of us as disciples and elaborate later in applying it as we live out all other relationships and servant-leadership according to His Word. 

Here are four key elements calling us as His disciples to humble service:

A) Love – Jesus showed them His full and complete love (v. 1).  Since God is Love and Christ is God and here He is described as showing them this complete love, as His disciples we should pay close attention to what happens next.

B) Humility – He knew He was from God, returning to God, and God had placed all things in His hands (authority) (v. 3).  Remember this is the essence of humility, which is knowing with confidence and contentment who you are in Christ so you can place others above yourself.  I asked the Lord several years ago as I was studying and praying through this, “Why would you tell us this about Christ?”  Not audibly but very plainly The Spirit placed these thoughts in my mind in line with The Word.  “I want you to know that Christ knew Who He was because of what He was getting ready to do.” Christ modeled humility.  And what did that look like? What was He getting ready to do? 

C) Service/Servant’s heart – Jesus got up from the table, removed His robe and put a towel around His waist and began to wash all the disciples’ feet (vv. 4-5).  This is what loving humility looks like and we struggle to practice it in our selfish pride if we do not know who we are in Christ. He doesn’t stop there. 

D) Authority – After washing their feet (and His exchange with Peter in vv. 6-11) Jesus does something that should stop us in our tracks when it comes to understanding love, humility, service, and discipleship.  He literally calls attention to what He has done and instead of saying, “There, that’s love and humble service,” He recalls for the 11 remaining disciples that they know Him as Master, Teacher, Rabbi, or Lord, depending on the translation.  What do all of these strongly imply?  That Jesus is the Authority in their eyes and He confirms it: “You are right, that’s what I am.” (vv. 12-13)

In one loving act of humble service and with one question and statement, Jesus powerfully tells His disciples, then and now, that love, humility, a servant’s heart, and authority cannot be separated in My Kingdom!  WOW!  This is powerful and speaks to how we should live as His disciples in our homes, churches, and everywhere we are called and placed in this culture and world for His Kingdom and Glory.

He finishes by describing discipleship.  “Do as I have done for you and you will be blessed” (vv. 14-17).  Live as a humble servant of your Master.

Again these are all repeated in principle in the beautiful condensed Gospel story and our call to imitate Christ found in Philippians 2: Sacrificial love and a humble servant’s heart (6-8); Blessing and authority (vv. 9-11); our discipleship call to be like Him (vv. 3-5).

These are certainly not easy in our flesh.  That’s why we must, as His disciples and by His Spirit, follow through and sacrifice our renewed and holy lives in Christ back to God.  That’s how all of this is fulfilled and we are alive with Christ in us.  As His disciples, it’s how we live and move and have our being.

Ultimately in the discipleship life we are called to sacrifice our SHAPE – Brother Rick Warren wrote Purpose-Driven Life, in which he outlines how we can know how God has called us by our SHAPE.  Spiritual gifts. Heart/passion. Aptitude/ability. Passion/heart. Experience/education.  It was an excellent book as many millions can attest.  I would simply add one thing that I feel confident Brother Warren would agree with:  While our SHAPE reveals how God made us and what He has made us for, according to His Word, the only way we’ll fully know His will is to sacrifice our SHAPE back to Him (see Romans 12:1-2 again).  There is a huge difference in maturity between telling The Lord what we are going to do for Him, and sacrificing back to Him what He has given us with the heart that says, “Here am I, do as you please in and through me.”

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Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – We were created to live with Christ as Lord.  Sin upset and destroyed that relationship.  Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible for us to return to God but we must do so with Him as Lord and us as His disciples.  Only in this relationship do we discover a fulfilled life.   

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s) – Take a look at the four key principles of discipleship in this article and the four key elements that Christ modeled for us that we are to imitate as His disciples.  Determine where you are doing well and what you need to work on in your heart and actions as you sacrifice your SHAPE and allow Him to have His way in your life and relationships.  Act on it!