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Friday, 18 September 2015 17:53

What Is a Biblical Disciple?

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Point 1. To many Christians the term “disciple” speaks of a believer who exhibits an acceptable level of observable Christian behavior.

Since one’s behavior is a product of one’s convictions (values), we believe being a “disciple” should more accurately be understood to reflect a believer’s disposition and relationship with the Lord. In this lesson we seek to focus on a disciple’s heart attitude, rather than just what a disciple “does.”

... Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

Godly Behavior is an Outcome of Godly Convictions

Point 2. The pivotal issue that a disciple has dealt with is that of Christ’s lordship over his life. In other words, the believer has considered the claims of Christ, and has concluded that the best workable relationship is for the Lord to be in charge of his entire life. One of Christ’s claims is that of ownership (having authority over that which is owned).

1 Cor. 6:19-20 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Cor. 7:23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

God’s ownership of the Christian is a factual truth, which is not dependent on the believer’s acknowledgment of it. I do not bestow ownership, I can only acknowledge and act upon what He states to be already true.

New believers will typically not be resistant to this truth, because they don’t have preconceived ideas of God’s expectations. In contrast, older believers tend to accept this truth intellectually, but be resistant to the implications.

What are the implications of ownership? What rights or authority are generally understood to be conveyed by ownership?

Does an owner not have the right to do whatever he wants with his property?

He Owns Me (Whether I Believe It or Not). His Ownership s Not Dependent on My Acceptance

It (being a disciple) involved personal allegiance to Him, expressed in following Him and giving Him an exclusive loyalty. In at least some cases it meant literal abandonment of home, business ties and possessions, but in every case readiness to put the claims of Jesus first, whatever the cost, was demanded. Such an attitude went well beyond the normal pupil-teacher relationship and gave the word ‘disciple’ a new sense. (The New Bible Dictionary)

Tuesday, 08 September 2015 15:12

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 4)

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What do we mean by the terms “self-dependent” and “carnal?”

In the Bible we see a contrast between “spiritual believers” and “self-dependent (carnal) believers.” This, we believe, is the contrast brought out in Proverbs 3:5-6, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (insight – AMP); think about (acknowledge - AMP) Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.’

We also need to distinguish between “disposition” and “acts of behavior”. What we “do” is an expression of what we “are.” One of the best examples is the contrast between King David and King Saul (see also Lesson 3-3). King David was described by God as a “spiritual man” (referring to the disposition of his heart). Acts 13:22 – ‘After removing him [king Saul], He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will.’

But nobody would suggest that David's behavior was pleasing to God when he committed adultery and murder. On the other hand, King Saul’s heart disposition was characterized by a pattern of “self-dependence.” As a result, when faced with decisions related to behavior, King Saul consistently “leaned on his own human understanding”, rather than walking by faith in God’s leading. It is important to note that Spiritual believers do not always trust God in every situation (see Paul in 2 Cor. 1:8-9 and 12:7), and “self-dependent” (“carnal”) believers often call upon the Lord in times of distress and crisis.

Another example is the clear contrast between Joshua and Caleb and the other ten Israelite tribal leaders (see also Lesson 3-4). All were sent by God to survey the Promised Land. All twelve men saw the same things, but only two men, Joshua and Caleb, had a “faithful” heart disposition that led them to trust God’s promise. The other ten had a disposition of trusting in their own human reasoning, which led them to forfeit God’s intended blessings. In Joshua 14:7-8, Caleb relates, ‘I was 40 years old when Moses the Lord’s servant sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to scout the land, and I brought back an honest report (according to my convictions - NIV). My brothers who went with me caused the people’s hearts to melt with fear, but I remained loyal to the Lord my God (wholeheartedly – NIV).’

In Numbers 14:24, God says of Caleb, ‘... since My servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed Me completely, I will bring him into the land where he has gone,...’

In the DTI materials, we use the term “spiritual” to describe believers who have chosen to acknowledge God as the One who can best oversee and manage their lives, and who view themselves as “servants of God their Master” (Lordship). We use the terms “self-dependent” and “carnal” to describe believers who have either willingly, or ignorantly, not chosen to acknowledge and accept the authority and Lordship of Christ over their life. Unfortunately, we believe the Biblical concept of “self-dependence” would characterize about 70-80% of believers found in the American evangelical Christian community.

His Lordship

Again, we need to be careful to apply the terms “spiritual” and “self-dependent” (carnal) to “heart attitude” (disposition) rather than to “external behavior”. If we convey to others that the terms “spiritual” or “self-dependent” refer mainly to external behavior, then we will be unconsciously promoting the misconception of focusing on external behavior, rather than the Biblical concept of focusing on the “internal transformation,” from which external behavior is derived.


Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Matthew 12:34 ... For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

transformation

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 13:22

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 3)

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Continuing our discussion on "growing new believers" let's look at  several examples of adopting “external behavior” patterns:

How does a new believer evaluate the spiritually acceptable car to drive? Clearly it is not a question addressed specifically in a Bible verse. While the Bible doesn’t say, “thou shalt not drive a car valued at more than $45,000”, most Christians wouldn’t feel comfortable driving to church meetings in a Rolls Royce. But who can find a verse that says it’s wrong? A new believer walking through the church parking lot cannot avoid noticing that most affluent believers drive more expensive vehicles and less affluent believers tend to drive less expensive vehicles. Imagine that, just like the world!

How about spiritually acceptable houses? Same as for cars. Most believers choose their houses, using the same principles as unbelievers do. Unless a new believer is personally instructed as to Biblical values, why should we think they’ll come to any other conclusion than, “it must be okay, since older, wiser Christians have made that determination. They know the Bible better than I do. I’m just a new believer, what do I know?”

How about spiritually acceptable eating behaviors? How obese is obese? Is it 19% over normal? How about 20% over normal? Who decides what is "normal?" If there are so many overweight believers (just like in the world), then obviously the new believer has to assume that Bible verses referring to obesity were really meant for believers in a different era, since the subject is not addressed in most congregations.

What about smoking, drinking alcohol, wasting time, excessive working, neglect of spouses and family, financial investment in possessions, the stock market, etc.? And the list goes on.

If the new believer is allowed to continue focusing on outward external behavior, rather than on Biblical principles, there is a high probability that the believer will grow into a “self-dependent” and “worldly-minded” Christian, practicing an externally acceptable spiritual life on the one hand (acceptable to Christian peers), while at the same time pursuing worldly goals of possessions, pleasures, power and popularity (to the extent they’re not offensive to Christian peers)

Next we'll look at the terms “self-dependent” and “carnal.”

Romans 12:2 Transformation

Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:33

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 2)

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In Part 1 of this series we asked the question, “Do we want a new believer to become like the ‘typical’ member of this congregation?” If the answer is no, then arrangements need to be put in place to impart Biblical values to new believers.

Ideally, we should be able to place new believers into a congregational environment and have healthy spiritual growth with Biblical values and convictions.

Shouldn't a new believer have the “right” to assume that older Christians have Biblical values and convictions? Are you satisfied with the spiritual values and convictions of the congregation you are associated with? In many cases the answer would be “no.”

When a newer believer is simply placed in the congregation without personal mentoring, that believer will probably feel “free to adopt” the spiritual values and convictions of that congregation. Why should we expect otherwise? Would I expect my child to acquire acceptable values and convictions if I allow him or her to associate with children whose values and convictions are unacceptable, yet I don’t object? By not saying anything to the contrary, I am conveying to my child that the association meets my approval?

We should not expect the newer believer to understand much about the Christian walk. It is only natural for newer believers to be mainly concerned with doing the right things, which means their focus is on external behavior.

As stated previously, a newer believer should be able to make the assumption that if he or she behaves like “older” Christians, then logically they'll be behaving in an acceptable Biblical fashion, since those older Christians have “obviously” styled their behavior on Biblical patterns. Right? NOT!

Unfortunately, many older Christians have adopted their behavior from previous older Christians who they similarly “assumed” to be spiritual. And so one generation follows the next. Unwittingly, many Christian leaders are “conveying” approval of this natural human process, by not insuring that each new believer is personally helped through the first formative and critical period of the Christian walk.

While it is totally natural for new believers to begin their Christian walk focusing on “external behavior”, we believe it is God’s purpose for those believers to quickly begin to focus on living by “Biblical principles.”

Probably more than 90% of typical daily external behavior is not addressed specifically in the Bible. The typical Christian will not “transition” from focusing on external behavior to focusing on Biblical principles, unless another Christian is willing to put the time and energy into helping them to understand God’s purposes and His process for producing spiritual growth.

Next we''l look at several examples of adopting “external behavior” patterns.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015 06:16

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 1)

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How Does A New Believer Acquire Spiritual Understanding?

If a new believer is not instructed otherwise, he will typically appropriate the values and convictions of the Christians that he associates with during the formative first period of his new spiritual life, just as a child will tend to adopt the values and convictions of his family and peers.

Let’s say that a new Christian is brought into association with a group of Navigators (Navigators.org), who we would rightly expect to immediately begin to challenge the believer’s former values and convictions. That believer is either going to adopt the Navigator’s values and convictions, or he will become so uncomfortable that he will seek a more “friendly” and less intrusive environment.

But what happens if there is not such a group of relatively mature mentors who will take the new believer under wing? Typically the newer believer will be introduced into a congregation, where it is often assumed that “sitting under the preaching of the Word” will be sufficient to lead that new believer into a spiritually mature walk. It is hoped that the negative traits observed in the congregation do not distort the new believer’s understanding. Is that realistic? We believe it is safe to say that most new believers will be impacted more by what they “see” other believers do, than what they “hear” them say. If it can be said that a particular congregation is more spiritually mature, then it would be realistic to reason that the combination of “hearing” Biblical truth from a pastor/teacher, together with “seeing” Biblical spirituality modeled from the congregation, would be a tremendous help in the healthy spiritual growth of a new believer.Growing Christians

Leaders need to realistically evaluate the spiritual health of the congregation, asking themselves, “Do we want a new believer to become like the ‘typical’ member of this congregation?” If the answer is no, then arrangements need to be put in place to impart Biblical values to new believers.

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Biblical truth is often presented in isolated (topical) form, without a good understanding of how it fits into the Christian life as a whole. This leads to the believer’s life becoming compartmentalized.

Imagine that you’re about to view a Power Point presentation of a “project”, a “medical procedure”, or someone’s “vacation trip.” You would normally expect such a presentation to begin with an “objective”, or an “overview”, and then proceed in a progressive and sequential manner.

But what if the order of the presentation was “random?” The person making the presentation would probably be able to explain each individual picture, but would generally have difficulty trying to present a progressive picture.

The more complicated the material, and the greater the unfamiliarity of the viewer, the more difficult it would be to try to make sense out of the presentation.

Many times the Christian life is presented in a similar random order. Thus the newer believer will probably have a difficult time trying to fit the isolated pieces together in a sensible way.

That is why we usually recommend that the discipleship process begin with a visual overview see Lesson 1-1, followed by a progressive and systematic presentation of what will be encountered by the typical newer believer.

Christian Life Overview

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Commitment is one of the four components of Personal Discipleship, including Modeling, Individual Attention and God’s Word.

personal circle

Commitment has to do with the heart attitude of the discipler (spiritual parent) in regards to the spiritual welfare and development of the disciple. This is a commitment that goes beyond just presenting God's word. The biblical idea of a disciple is more of an “apprentice” than just a student.

Discipling somebody is going to impact your plans. In the natural realm a child takes all of the parents energy. The parent is always thinking about where the child is what the child needs.

Spiritually there is an impact too. Discipling somebody can be emotionally and physically draining. But it is also exhilarating and thrilling and it's so gratifyingly to watch somebody grow but there's also an expenditure of resources and a deep concern (for the disciple).

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In giving us the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples. (not just converts). This then brings up the need to distinguish between a “disciple” and a “non-disciple”.

We believe it is true to say that not all believers are disciples. (from the Biblical standpoint.) What then is a proper definition of the term “disciple?” We believe it will help us to consider a disciple to be an “apprentice.”

Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The key word in this verse is the word "like". Is a disciple a student? Yes. Is an apprentice a student? Yes. What then is the difference between a student and a disciple?

Jesus is differentiating between somebody that is just acquiring knowledge versus somebody that wants to become like a teacher. The disciple has the goal of being like the teacher.

In the DTI material we purport that the disciple is becoming like the discipler. If we understand that the disciple is going to become like the teacher (discipler) that makes the discipler a role model. (Whether one likes it or not)

Balanced Discipleship

If your goal (as a pastor or leader) is to just present Biblical knowledge, you can deemphasize the idea of role model. Because the typical person that stands up at a seminar is imparting knowledge. They are not thinking, “I want you to become just like me.” They are imparting knowledge.

But a disciple is a different creature. The disciple has the goal of becoming like the person they are being discipled by. When a person becomes a Christian and a discipler (spiritual mentor) is in their life, the goal of the discipler is to help the newer believer to become like Jesus.

Unfortunately, many in the Western Hemisphere have adopted the secular teacher-student method for growing believers. There are significant factors that would seem to favor this approach, such as busyness and perceived efficiency. However, what appears to be most efficient is not necessarily what is most effective.

The teacher-disciple model demands a greater commitment, and much more personal attention, but we believe it is the Biblical method as modeled by Jesus Himself, and the model that will result in the greatest individual spiritual growth and impact on the world.

A Student – Typically the goal of a student is to learn knowledge (information), that is, to learn what the teacher knows. The student may not even respect or like his teacher.

A Disciple – A disciple on the other hand is a student who has the goal of becoming like his teacher. This model requires personal interaction, and a personal commitment by the teacher (mentor, spiritual parent) on behalf of the apprentice learner.

A Student Wants To Know What the Teacher Knows, A Disciple Wants To Become Like the Teacher

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We want to address the commonly held belief that “presenting Biblical knowledge” equates to discipleship, and that the other components are “optional.” If the other components are not given proper importance in the nurturing process, the Christian being mentored will typically have a difficult time growing to a reproductive spiritual maturity.

If Biblical knowledge by itself were the key to spirituality, we should have the most spiritual generation of Christians in history. Christian Book Stores are filled with books on every Biblical subject imaginable.

To propose that Biblical knowledge alone is the key to spirituality is akin to saying that “food” alone is the most important need of a child. Undeniably food is essential, but would it be accurate to convey to potential parents that love, commitment, nurturing, modeling, personal attention, etc., are somehow optional? Has God given us the process of raising a physical child as a model for raising a spiritual child? If so, should I not then ask, “How would a physical infant fare if left to fend for itself as the typical new spiritual child is?”

Most Christians would agree that as the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Himself, He typically uses Christians somewhere in the birthing process. How can the same Christians then conclude that their primary involvement in the new baby Christian’s growth is mostly limited to setting spiritual food on the table, and that the Holy Spirit now prefers to work alone in the other areas where the new believer needs help to grow?

To love to teach is good, but to love those you teach is better !

To know the Bible is good, but to intimately know and understand the One who the Bible reveals is better !

Jer. 9:23-24 This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me— that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the Lord’s declaration.

John 17:3 This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.

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In 1 Peter 5:1-3 leaders are told, ... I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, ... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Not just tell people what to do, but rather, show them what to do. Can Christian leaders realistically expect followers to imitate what they themselves are not modeling (by example)?

Most pastors in the Western church are so busy, they don't have time to devote to giving individual attention to new believers. And yet the Word says to be examples. What is the typical pastor being an example of? Many times it's an issue of logistics.

We believe an answer is for pastors and leaders to train “faithful” believers in the church body, who in turn can disciple (spiritually mentor) newer believers. In many churches, discipleship has come to mean “the presentation of biblical truth.” Thus many leaders perceive that their responsibility is to present biblical truth, with the expectation that it is then the responsibility of each believer to allow the Holy Spirit to apply those truths to their own lives. However, since most newer believers are unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit, they need someone to personally help them to understand how to cooperate with Him in their personal spiritual development.

We are aware that many pastors and leaders need assistance in training disciplers, and one of the ministry areas of DTI is to provide discipleship materials, conferences and other assistance in training.

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