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I’m so glad that you are joining me for this conversation. It’s super important because the inescapable reality we’re studying today is going to have dramatic and eternal consequences on our lives and others’ lives.
It’s a hugely necessary discussion, so allow me to quickly remind you that I’d love to interact with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the Wisdom App. In fact, I was just tweeting with someone this morning, and we were having a great time. So, look up AMBrewster, and I’ll see you there.
And definitely plan to join me this coming Monday at 11:30am ET to take today’s study to a new level. Download the free Wisdom app, follow me @AMBrewster, and join me for a live conversation this coming Monday about how we can better apply this truth.
And — as always — today’s free episode notes, transcript, and discipleship resources are available for you at CelebrationOfGod.com, and I have a link in the description for you for that.
And now let’s talk about the inescapable reality and consequences of discipleship.
First of all, I never want to assume that we’re all using the same definitions. We’ve talked a lot about discipleship on this show — especially recently — it’s the entire thrust of what we’re doing here, but it’s very possible that this is your first time with us.
So, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page by defining our terms.
1. The Definition of Discipleship
In its broadest sense, discipleship refers simply to being a student. It’s the process of acquiring information, systematizing it, and then using it. We could say it’s gaining knowledge, understanding that knowledge, and then living wisely.
And, of course, all students have teachers, so, to be a disciple of Christ — in particular — is to be someone who acquires information from God, systematizes it, and then uses it for His glory.
But there’s a secondary facet of discipleship that is educationally uncommon though it’s experientially intuitive.
2. The Demand of Discipleship
Let me start by explaining what I mean by this truth is not “educationally common.”
Very few elementary, junior high, or high schoolers are planning to be teachers when they grow up. And really none of their teachers require them to be able teach the content they’re learning to other students. Just as long as they do their assignments, all the teachers are happy.
In fact, most college and graduate students aren’t planning to be teachers either. And, again, few of their teachers require that they be able to teach the information they’re learning in the class.
The only students who are actively being required to teach the information they’re receiving are the ones who are in school for the purpose of becoming teachers.
That means that a good algebra student is wanting to know and understand algebra so they can use the algebra in life. But most good algebra students aren’t imagining they’re ever going to need to teach algebra to anyone else.
So, from an educational standpoint, the vast majority of students are not being expected to teach what they’re learning.
However, experientially, teaching what you’ve learned actually makes sense. We all do it all the time. Every time you’ve learned something that genuinely revolutionized your life, you’ve told someone else about it.
In fact, with the exception of corresponders, comedians, and complainers, most of the remaining social media users are trying to teach people something. They may be teaching a practical skill, it might be about a product, it might be a spiritual discipline, it might be a weight loss secret . . . but most of them are passing on to you something that they have learned. And they believe that once you learn it, you’re going to want to tell people about it too.
And that — my friends — is the often neglected demand of discipleship. Disciples of Christ are required to make disciples of Christ.
I think we can all agree that if I am a follower of Christ, I actually have to obey God. And we believe that because in John 8:31 Jesus specifically states that if I continue in His Word, then I am truly a disciple of His.
So, we have to also agree that if Jesus commands that I make disciples — which He does — I can’t consider myself His disciple if I’m not obeying Him by making more disciples.
However, this demand of discipleship — the fact that all disciples have to be making disciples — is actually not the inescapable reality we’re going to discuss today.
That was all introductory information so that we’re all on the same page.
Alright, so — by way of quick review — to be a disciple is to be a student. To be a disciple of Christ is to be someone who acquires information from God, systematizes it, and then uses it for His glory.
And a significant part of that information from God that we’re supposed to understand and use in life is that He requires us to make disciples for Him.
So, here’s the focus of today’s study. I’m calling this . . .
3. The Inescapable Reality of Discipleship
Over the years I’ve spoken with a lot of people about the topic of discipleship, and many of them think what I used to think. They think that they’re either making disciples, or they’re not. It’s one or the other.
Now, as I was growing, I was not actively engaging in discipleship for Christ most of the time. In fact, I was very much a double-minded man and unstable in all my ways throughout my high school and college years.
So, if you had asked me back then about this whole discipleship thing, I would have said what a lot of people believe. I would have said that though I was a disciple of Christ by virtue of being born again, I wasn’t a very good disciple of Christ. And I definitely would have been quick to say that I wasn’t — in any really measurable way — making disciples.
And when people say things like what I would have said back then, they’re revealing that there’s a significant truth about discipleship that they don’t yet know and understand.
And the truth about which I’m speaking — this inescapable reality of discipleship — is the title of today’s episode, You Are Always Making Disciples.
My friend, it’s impossible not to make disciples. You can’t help but always be making disciples.
That means that when I was a double-minded man in college, I was still making disciples. When I was taking algebra in high school, I was making disciples. When I was in elementary school, I was making disciples.
In fact, the only way a person can stop making disciples is if they were to become a hermit with absolutely no interaction with people . . . ever.
But if that hermit were to stroll into town, the moment he comes within visual range of another human being — even if he never speaks a word — he’s making disciples.
Now, you may be wondering how I can make that claim.
A. We’re always making disciples because that’s how God created it to work.
In episode 90, at the beginning of our Discipleship Spiral Series we learned that God created us to learn, commands us to learn, and capacitates us to learn. That means that He created, commands, and capacitates us to be disciples.
Therefore, it’s impossible for the average human being to stop learning because God created it that way. Yes, we don’t necessarily learn when we’re asleep or in a comma or when we’ve suffered the severest of brain trauma. I’m not talking about those obviously extreme examples.
I’m simply referring to the fact that we’re always taking in information, systematizing it, and applying it to our lives. That means that we’re always learning.
Now, it’s possible that we’re learning all the wrong lessons. It’s possible that we’re being taught lies, or we’re not interpreting the information correctly during the understanding phase, and we also have to acknowledge that we rarely apply our learning perfectly.
And since we’re constantly acquiring knowledge, systematizing it, and making choices accordingly, we have to ask, “From where is this teaching coming?”
Well, it comes from all around us.
Infants are a perfect example of this. Even though they’re just barely starting to understand human speech, they’re already learning from their experiences. Infants eventually understand that they can’t get out of their playpens by themselves. So, they lift their arms to you because they recognize that they need your help.
All the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences we have teach us things. In fact, we even teaching ourselves as we grapple with existential questions and come to conclusions about them.
That means that if I spend all of my time with someone who absolutely loves a certain sports team, I am going to learn a lot about that team — whether I initially want to or not, and whether the individual is intending to teach me or not.
I use sports as my example, because — for me — it illustrates this point well.
I’ve never been a fan of professional sports. I just don’t have time for football and basketball and baseball and hockey. But — despite that fact — I know a pretty good amount about each of those sports, the men and women currently playing them, the rules, the teams, their odds of winning, and the like.
How do I know these things? I can tell you it has nothing to do with my own intentional pursuit of that knowledge. To be honest, a ton of it comes simply from scrolling through social media.
But then there’re all the people in my life who unintentionally disciple me in their love of sports. My sister and her husband love the Tarheels. I’ve lived in Green Bay, Detroit, St. Louis, and Chicago — you can only imagine the education I received living in each of those places.
And I’ve interacted with many, many people who have influenced me and taught me and discipled me in their favorite sports and teams. Some of them did it on purpose, and some didn’t.
And unless I absolutely refuse to engage with any sports-related content, of course I’m going to pick it up along the way, regardless of how apathetic I may be.
So, on one side, God created you to learn from all of your life experiences, so that means you can’t help but learn from others as you have experiences with them.
On the other side, you can’t help but influence the people in your life as they interact with you.
Everything you do and say is either teaching them to be like you or teaching them not to be like you.
So, A. We’re always making disciples because that’s how God created it to work, but . . .
B. We’re always making disciples because that’s how people want it to work.
Listen, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. We are not the original, special snowflakes we like to think we are.
Let’s take fashion as an example. All fashion is a reaction. Fashion is not an action. Whether it’s a reaction to nakedness or environmental factors like precipitation or temperature, fashion is a reaction.
But even fashion designers are either reacting to things that they like by implementing it into their creations, or they’re reacting to things they don’t like by trying to move in the opposite direction.
And the same goes for the people wearing the clothes. Not everyone — but many people — try very hard not to be mainstream in their clothing choices. But their choices are not truly unique. Whether they choose to be naked or deliberately layer a bunch of ill-suited clothing pieces, it’s all been done before.
I think the same is true for people who design monsters. You know, the people who create monsters for movies and storybooks. Whether the monsters are aliens or fantasy creatures, they all look like something else. For example, there was a time in movies that all aliens looked like bugs.
The reason for this is that humans can’t create things that are 100% novel. Only God can do that. He can take nothing and create an infinite number of somethings never before conceived.
But God’s creation is only able to do variations on a theme. Yes, we are creative like God is, but infinitely less creative than He is, and one of the biggest differences is that we are never truly original.
But what does this have to do with discipleship? Well, humanity wasn’t just created to learn, we desire to learn.
In order to exercise the image of God in us, we must learn. We can’t be creative without first observing and learning. We can’t appreciate what is good or bad, cool or uncool without being taught.
Some of us consciously run toward people we admire so that we can learn how to be like them. And even those who run away from the popular and mainstream are doing two things. 1. They’re still basing what they do on what someone else is teaching them. For example, if the sporty people are wearing UnderArmor, the artsy kids are going to wear anything but. But they’re not just learning what not to be, 2. They’re running toward the other people who are living life the way they want to live life. They’re drawn to the other people who don’t want to be mainstream.
So, whether you realize it or not, you actually want to be discipled. You have your favored musicians and actors and speakers and personalities and teachers and subjects. Sometimes those subjects are academic and sometimes they’re cultural.
And the same is true for the other people in your life.
Most likely, your disciplees are people who all have one thing in common . . . for whatever reason, they like to spend time with you. Now, I’m not saying they idolize you, but there is something about you and your life choices that attracts them.
Again, I’m not saying that you hang out with the people you do because you all want to be like each other, but I am saying that the people with whom you associate by choice are people who you believe are either going to benefit you, or you will benefit them, or you will be a mutual benefit to each other.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, then you should have realized a while ago that — so far — this particular episode is starkly devoid of Scripture references.
Let me tell you why. First, very little of what I’m saying is commanded or didactically taught in the Bible. However, it is exemplified in the Bible from the beginning to the end.
Everything from Cain’s antithetical feelings about Able to the Corinthian’s church’s hero-worship to the disciple of Christ’s passionate desire to be conformed to His image . . . we see that God created us to learn, and we all desire to do it to one degree or another.
But there was one passage in particular that really motivated today’s topic, and so I’m going to share today’s final point and spend a little time unpacking Matthew 23:15.
C. We disciple the same way we worship.
You can’t stop worshipping. You’re either worshipping God by pleasing Him or worshipping self by pleasing yourself.
That means that you’re either intentionally or unintentionally teaching the people in your life to worship the exact same way you do.
It doesn’t matter if you sit your kids down and tell them to follow their hearts, or they always see you stress-eating . . . the same message is being sent.
It doesn’t matter if you espouse some heretical belief from the pulpit, or the congregation watches you live heretically, you’re teaching them something.
So, since we must all acknowledge that we are constantly discipling, and since it’s only possible to disciple for God or to disciple for self, we must diligently and intentionally discover which one we’re doing and then make the appropriate changes.
Therefore, let’s look at Matthew 23.
Starting in verse 13, Jesus works through a list of Eight Woes. These Woes are targeted at the Pharisees and are a stunningly powerful list of sharp condemnations.
But listen carefully to the third woe from verse 15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
If nothing else, this verse clearly teaches that we can actively make the wrong kinds of disciples . . . even when we are convinced that we’re doing everything necessary to make the right kind of disciples.
Verse 13 says that they actually “shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
Now, the Pharisees were a group of religious zealots who added rules to the Old Testament Law in order to make it harder on themselves to break God’s commands. Then, because they believed they genuinely loved Yahweh, these guys went into all the world to make disciples. They were evangelizing and training people to be just like them. And they were convinced that they were the spiritual cream of the crop.
But Jesus said that their proselytes — their disciples — were ending up being disciples of hell.
So, I hope that you’re now wondering how you can avoid making disciples of hell.
The first observation I want to make from chapter 23 is that Jesus — in Eight short Woes — uses the word “blind” 5 different times.
The first use is in verse 16, which immediately follows the verse we just read. After just condemning the Pharisee’ discipleship tactics, Jesus call them “blind guides.”
So these guys were definitely guiding people. And they weren’t doing it unintentionally. They were convinced that they were purposefully discipling for Yahweh, but Jesus says that their main problem was that they were blind.
In Matthew 15:14 Jesus said, “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Again, He uses the word “blind” 4 other times in the Matthew 23 passage.
What does this teach us?
1. In order to disciple for Christ and not for Hell, you must open your eyes to the truth of God.
Now, I must admit that this is — first and foremost — an act of God. It is God Who opens blind eyes.
In Acts 26, Jesus has just confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, and He is about to give Paul his new marching orders. In verse 17 Christ says, “I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
God does the spiritual work, He provides the faith, and He sends His people to preach the truth so that the unbelievers can have their eyes opened to the Gospel.
That is the first step. We must be born again disciples of Christ, or we will never be able to help another be a disciple of Christ.
The second step is that we must continue with our eyes open. In Revelation 3 Jesus confronts the believers in Laodicea who had become lukewarm in their worship of God. And — starting in verse 18 — Jesus said, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.”
These people, sometimes warmly worshipping God and sometimes coldly worshipping self, had become a double-minded, unstable, lukewarm mess.
And God’s answer was to turn to Him. They were to submit to Him and thereby receive three things — gold which represents truth, white garments which represent the pure life lived in the truth of God, and eye salve which represents the ability to discern between sin and righteousness.
So, that is the first step. We must stop being blind.
2. In order to disciple for Christ and not for Hell, you must understand God’s truth as He would have you understand it.
Another major problem in the world today is bad advice, poor counsel, and even false-teaching.
Now, I’m not talking about unregenerate false-teachers, I’m talking about well-meaning Christians who due to their own ignorance or hard hearts misunderstand the Scriptures and share that misunderstanding with others.
Some write New York Time’s Bestselling books and others repeatedly share their misunderstanding in small group.
Consider Peter’s words in II Peter 3:15-16, “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand.” Okay, so even God through the inspired Word admits that the truth of God is sometimes hard to understand.
But listen to what comes next, “which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
“Untaught” refers to being ignorant of the truth. ‘Unstable” refers to a person who doesn’t have a good foundation. Since this second word is only twice in the Scriptures, it’s harder to appreciate the nuance, but I would say that the unstable are different than the untaught because they have the information, but they don’t understand it as they should.
And both of these people are in danger of twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction.
My friends, there are not many ways to understand the Bible. There is only one way . . . God’s way. And it should not be my intention to discover what God’s Word means to me, I need to discover what it means to Him.
Yes, there may be legitimate applications that differ from one person to another, but not understanding.
This is illustrated in Matthew 23 as Jesus has to train the Pharisees on the correct biblical understanding of oath making.
Since you’re always making disciples, if you want to make them for Christ, make sure your eyes are open to the truth of God through regeneration, and make sure that you are constantly learning and accurately understanding the Scriptures.
3. In order to disciple for Christ and not for Hell, you must make God’s priorities your priorities.
In Matthew 23:23 Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for tithing their spices, but not emphasizing what Jesus says are the weightier parts of the Law.
They agonized over measuring out a 10th of their mint, dill, and cumin, but they didn’t dedicated themselves to knowing, understanding, and living justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
Jesus used an interesting metaphor when He illustrated their poor priorities this way, they “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
As you learn and understand the truth of God, your priorities should naturally line up with His. This will exemplify for everyone in your life how they too should approach God’s Word.
4. In order to disciple for Christ and not for Hell, you must make the internalization of truth your first goal.
Verse 25 through 28 describe the Pharisees as being cups that are clean on the outside and filthy on the inside and as tombs that are beautifully whitewashed on the outside even though they’re filled with dead mens’ bones.
This admonishment goes beyond merely knowing and understanding and externally living the law. This speaks to the importance that we actually be renewed from the inside out.
In Ephesians we learn the importance of putting off sin and putting on righteousness, but a necessary part of the process includes renewing our minds.
Philippians calls us to have the mind of Christ.
But Pharisaism is what it is because it’s hypocritical. It’s not consistent from the inside to the outside. It appears to be something that it isn’t.
Is it true that a hypocrite may do all the right things and — because others don’t know them well enough to know their motivation — they may have a positive impact on people? Yeah. But that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t always work that way either.
But when it comes to true, Christ-honoring discipleship that happens because of us — not in spite of us — our life choices need to be governed by who we are in Christ.
And — lastly —
5. In order to disciple for Christ and not for Hell, you must submit to those who speak God’s truth.
In the final Woe, Jesus proclaims, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? 34 Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.”
Though Jesus didn’t say “instead of killing the prophets, submit to the word they give you,” we need to recognize that that is exactly how we are to respond to the truth of God.
If you listened to our Discipleship Spiral Series then you know how important it is for you to love and interact with the discipline process. As you accept teaching, reproof, correction, and training, you will gain knowledge and understanding and live wisely.
So, as you participate in your own discipleship, you will be growing and therefore able to better disciple those whom God brings into your life.
My friend, it’s impossible for you to not be discipling. That means that if you aren’t intentionally discipling for Christ, you’re discipling for yourself. You’re encouraging people in their own self-worship.
And the only ways to avoid that is to have your eyes opened to the truth of God’s Word, then you need to learn it, understand it, and live it. Then you will have the priorities of God and the mind of Christ and willing participate in sanctification.
Then and only then can you know that you are discipling people for God.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so God’s people can learn the desperately important truth that they are always making disciples, and — if you would like some more assistance in your own discipleship journey — please contact us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And — of course — join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing how to worship God in March.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.