We are family

My dear sweet cousin may be leaving us soon. She has pancreatic cancer. She loves the Lord with her heart soul and mind. We have been separated by distance and years for over 30 years. Her brother and I were raised by our grandmother for the first few years of my life. They were teens when they left her and went to their parents. I was 7 years old. Yes we all had interesting life experiences. But we talked about how gracious the Lord was to each of us as he brought us through those interesting times without emotional damage. We are convinced that it was because of the foundation laid by our sweet grand-mama who discipled us while she was raising us. She went home to Jesus in 1967, and my spiritual life was changed forever. It was after her death that I gave my heart to Jesus at age 14. My physical world fell apart when she died, but my spiritual world was enriched.  That is strange, right?  Families – including your extended family – are a gift from God! We should never take them for granted. I am so thankful to be spending time with my dear cousins.

I know that someone is out there saying when I became a Christian I lost my family.   Well the Lord promised us something, “. . . . “We have left everything to follow you!” . . . . “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30). [1]  The family of believers everywhere in the world becomes our family.   Some of you out there are the only members of your family who is a Christian. Be reminded that I am your sister in Christ; my cousins are also your sister and brother in Christ.  This blog is here to encourage you as you walk in the Lord.  It is here to help your share Christ with others.  But even more importantly we are here to share him and his blessing through the power of prayer with everyone whom comes here.  You Are Not Alone.  We will continue with the story of my cousins.

We spent the evening going down memory lane. Talking about our dear sweet grandmother who taught us the difference between good from evil, and how to demonstrate love to others. She was an example of living theology, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).  Our grandmother lived this every single day of her life.

Sometimes I reflect and I think we have lost that simple thing. It is not I love you if you love me back. Christ said love your neighbor as you love yourself. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).  He did not add a “but’ if they don’t love you-then don’t love them back. If they don’t give you what you want doesn’t love them back.  I was reminded of all of this last night as we talked into the wee hours of the morning about how the three of us were loved so unconditionally by our grand-mama and how she loved even total strangers the same way.

In light of our ongoing discussion about discipleship, I will state that she was a disciple who was a multiplier.[2] We are all a called to be multipliers for the kingdom of God.  Who are you disciplining right now so that they can come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ-the Messiah-and his saving grace?  If the answer is no one them you are not helping to grow the family of God and you are not in obedience to the Lord’s Commandment to, “He said to them, “Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Go forward my friends with the goal of expanding The Family of God!

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002)

[2] In them Paul reminded Timothy of the necessity of mentoring multipliers: And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2: 2) Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is. . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) Locations 2712-2714, Kindle.

What is a disciple?

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19 NIV).

According to Jim Putnam, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, a disciple is “simply” someone who follows Christ, is “charged by him” to carry out the great commission.[1] “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV). The authors advise churches that when they attempt to define the word “disciple” they must ensure that the construct is biblical. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey proffer a definition of a disciple as being an individual who “abandons the things of the world, follows Christ, and is “disciplined in spiritual habits and purpose”.[2]

However, Earley and Dempsey continued the discourse with ten specific characteristics of a disciple; they are defined as individuals who have:

  •  counted the cost
  • committed [themselves] to Christ
  • [determined that they will] carry his or her. . . burden to sacrifice for Christ and the cross
  • [ascertained that they ] will [give] up all earthly possessions
  • [mastered the discipline of bible study] and experiences freedom in Christ
  • [a] genuine love for other believers
  • [a personal relationship with Christ] prays, bears fruit, and glorifies God
  • [the indwelling] of the Holy Spirit
  • obediently follow[ed] the desires of the master, and have become
  • intimately involved in the mission of Jesus to make disciples[4]

The writer’s definition of a disciple is:

  1. any individual who follows Christ,
  2. is willing to follow him at all cost, and is
  3. dedicated to completing the great commission.

The gospels are replete with scriptural references that identify the qualities of a disciple. The following are just a sample of those references.  Mark records the Lord as stating, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:17 NIV). [5] Mark identifies two qualities of a disciple in this one statement.  In order for a disciple to be proficient in reaching people for Christ he or she must first follow his example.  Then they are equipped to carry out the great commission.  Mark records the great commission as, “. . . . Go[ing] into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).  The last identifier of a disciple is pronounced by Luke as he presents the words of the Lord, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

An individual’s willingness to take up the cross and follow Jesus is an individual who is willing to die for him and he did for them, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matt 16:25).  This scripture references the reward of the saint who follows Christ. In concluding, the writer states that a disciple is any individual who,

  1. follows Christ;
  2. is willing to follow him at all cost, and is
  3. dedicated to completing the great commission.

The research of Putman, Harrington, and Emerson as well as Early and Dempsey confer with this definition.

Works Cited

Earley, Dave and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Notes

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 46-51, Kindle.

[2] Putman, Harrington, and Emerson, DiscipleShift: Five Step, 45, Kindle.

[3] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is. . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 22.

[4] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 22-26.

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

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