Making disciples is vital. That’s why I recently announced the founding of a new ministry called “Discipleship Journeys with Jesus” (DJJ). The Lord laid it on my heart to start this new ministry in order to meet the crucial need of making committed disciples around the world.
In His Great Commission Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).
Jesus’ parting command was to “make disciples.” But what is a disciple? The original Greek word is MATHETES. It means “someone catechized with proper instruction from the Bible with its necessary follow-through (life-applications).”
An easy description is a devoted follower. MATHETES was used for followers of John the Baptist in Matthew 9:14.
We must not be confused by unbiblical, or even biblical, substitutes for true biblical disciples:
01. Unbiblical substitutes for disciples:
There are several often-practiced unbiblical substitutes for real disciples:
Becoming a follower of Jesus begins with a decision, this is true. But it is only the beginning. The Great Commission doesn’t say “Go therefore into all the world and make decisions.”
The problem in settling with “decisions” is that decisions don’t mean the full depth of being disciples. In fact, sometimes decisions don’t mean much at all!
Have you ever made a decision to do something and then did virtually nothing about it? Better question: Who hasn’t? New Year’s Resolutions are a great example. The statistics say that a little over half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent succeed in meeting their goals.
Decisions for Jesus which are not followed by actions mean nothing. See Matthew 7:21-23.
Sympathizers are better than enemies, but are still less than Christ’s command to make disciples.
In the USA and other “Christianized” countries, we have many sympathizers of Christ. They think Jesus was a great moral teacher, an exemplary person, a good example. But they are not disciples.
This is nothing new: Jesus faced the same issue. Pontius Pilate.
Pilate’s “sympathy” resulted in Jesus’ execution! It’s nice that Pilate was sympathetic, but he was still an enemy of Jesus.
Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30 ESV).
2. Biblical substitutes for disciples:
Let’s go a little deeper. There are several often-practiced biblical substitutes for real disciples. These are substitutes that born again Christians become confused about:
There are two participles in the Great Commission. They are both vitally important, but not the end goal. The first is baptizing. Being baptized is one of the important first steps of obedience in being disciples of the Master.
Last month I was in India and got to witness the baptism of about 15 new believers from Hindu background. It was the highlight of my trip!
But while baptism is important, it is not the goal. The goal is disciples.
The leaders in India know that. That’s why they are interested in the materials that will be developed through our new DJJ ministry. Their goal is disciples not just baptisms!