Basic Battle Training
Chapter 4: Discipleship: The Front Line!
With a more accurate definition of God, a better understanding of the enemy, and a course of study and preparation set forth, we can now examine the specifics of the battle we find ourselves in.
The forces of Godís Church as originally planned and outlined in The New Testament, are broken into three distinct and definable areas:
The leadership or management group: In this position we find God, His Son, and The Holy Spirit. These three in concert with The Word form the top of the organization.
The disciples or front line workers: Closely following the leadership are God's front line workers: the Disciples. With Christ as their example and the Scriptures defining their life and role, they are designed to be the primary thrust and vanguard of the work God seeks to accomplish in the New Covenant.
The logistical or support branch: Finally, the balance of God's Church comes into play with its responsibilities of infrastructure and support for the Disciples.
Satan is a formidable foe and works diligently to neutralize and compromise this force. Only through knowledge of Godís word and faithfulness to it, is there hope to fight and defeat his evil objectives, maintain the proper structure of the Church, see real discipleship, and accomplish the goals of The New Testament.
So what is the state of affairs today?
Briefly stated, things are not doing well at all. As with what happened with the Jewís 2000 year slide into their responsibility for their Messiahís crucifixion, the Church likewise has been evolving into the weak state found today. The primary result of this failure is weak and anemic evangelism, with virtually no real Biblical disciples. Replacing these intended men is a large body of untrained troops who have been led to believe that they are disciples. This has, to a large degree, been accomplished by re-defining, softening and watering down the truth of what a disciple really is
God's two plans
In order to properly understand the role and definition of a disciple it is necessary to briefly review the Old and the New Covenants.
In the Old Testament we find God's covenant with the following characteristics:
A plan more geared to the temporal level of nation, marriage, and family.
A covenant in which reward for oneís faithfulness was realized in this life.
The need for disciple-type "front line workers" limited to a few prophets, etc.
Prophecy relating more to the redemption of the earthly Kingdom of Israel, not the end of the world.
Concepts such as "Forsaking all," "laying up treasures in heaven," and "persecution for righteous service" were not emphasized, taught or expected.
An emphasis on overcoming enemies via warfare, victory and success as a Nation, not martyrdom.
Finally, the blessings and judgments of God were meted out in a mostly temporal fashion, with little reference to Hell or judgment to come.
In contrast to God's direction in the Old Covenant, The New Testament introduces a much different approach on to how to live our lives and what to expect from such service.
Christís lifestyle becomes the new pattern of life to be emulated with discipleship itself being introduced and clearly defined (Luke 14:26-33, Matthew 10:25; I John 2:6).
Rewards for faithful service are to be expected in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-20).
In contrast to the Old Testament mandate of Earthly blessings, believers are introduced to the concept of "leaving all" and sacrifice (Luke 14:33; Matthew 10:9-10; 19:21,27).
The ultimate sacrifice, the service of being a "eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake" is vigorously introduced with examples of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, and Paul (Matthew 19:12, I Cor. 7:32-33
In contrast to the "nation building" of the Old, the New Testament emphasis is now on Evangelism for the Kingdom to come (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47-48).
The New Testament prophecies now emphasize the return of Jesus Christ and the end of the world.
In contrast to God's promise of victory over enemy armies, persecution, trouble and even martyrdom are now to be the promised result of vigorous service (John 15:20; 16:2).
And finally, Hell becomes an issue as never before.
Although there is much in common between the two plans and God has certainly not changed, it is obvious that the New Testament direction is vastly different than the Old. Unfortunately, this basic truth is not much of a factor in todayís doctrine and requires re-foundation in order to properly understand the definition and role of the disciple. Once again, New Testament Christianity follows a very clear pattern and outline: God, His Son, and the Spirit in the Leadership position, directly followed by the Disciples, who are then to be supported by the Church.
Church History since the Apostles
For about 1500 years (prior to the invention of the printing press) there were virtually no Bibles available to the masses. Indeed, even had they been available, most people lacked the ability to read as literacy was reserved to only a few. The result of this situation was limited hard information concerning God and His plan.
For the last 500 or so years we have seen an explosion in literacy and unprecedented access to the Scriptures for the common man. These events immediately led to the Reformation and a more clear understanding of The Kingdom of God. Luther and the reformers took the church a considerable distance from the errors of Catholicism, but not far enough.
Today, Godís Church is characterized (and bogged down by) expensive building programs, property ownership, and tax disputes ("non-profit" status compromising the message via government control). The work originally commissioned to the Disciples and the Church has found itself relegated to a few select "high profile" men or sloughed off to the technologies of the day.
With these these things, "Discipleship" has come to have a new meaning: that of teaching the basics in a "new converts class" in order to prepare them for proper entry into the afore-described "status quo". Discipleship, as defined in the New Testament and exemplified by the men of the early church, has virtually disappeared from our culture today.
In its place, most believers live in and love our current culture of Christianity with its easy goals and worldly compromising ways. As God, through His prophet Jeremiah clearly stated:
"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it soÖ" (Jer. 5:31)
Having virtually abolished the understanding of discipleship is one of satanís greatest accomplishments. This continues as a logical extension of his greater deception: the blatant compromise of Christ and God Himself. He has effectively done this utilizing:
The traditions of men (see: Mark 7:1-13).
The "redefinition" of terms and word meanings.
And an easy acceptance by a naÔve and worldly flock.
So what is the Biblical definition of a disciple?
Forget what you have been taught in your Church, read in a book, or heard in a seminar. In order to properly understand this issue of discipleship we need to look to the Master himself: Jesus Christ. His lifestyle is, and will always be a clearest example to those who strive to carry the mantle of a disciple.
- No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life (II Timothy 2:4).
In Matthew 19:16-22 The Lord exhorted the rich young ruler to sell what he had, give to the poor and "come and follow me." Following this exchange the disciples said to Jesus, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee" (Matthew 19:27), and Christ followed their comment with,
Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my nameís sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life (Matthew 19:29).
Now let us look at Luke 14:25-33. As Jesus Christ was speaking to great multitudes...he said:
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren, and sister, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My discipleÖ.So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.
Search as you will, these teachings are not found and instructed in the Church today. With the terminology and understanding found in our time, this instruction is relegated and re-defined to only the time when Christ was actually here, or somehow "spiritualized" to mean something much less than the obvious, simple reading of Scripture.
When Christ first called His disciples He directed them to leave their jobs and confidence in worldly security, to trust Him to meet their needs, and to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9; Mark 1: 16-20; 2:14; Luke 5:1-11). And they did indeed follow His simple instruction as they "...forsook all and followed him" (Luke 5:11).
A ďdiscipleĒ is one who follows, patterns and disciplines his life and lifestyle after The Master: A soldier called to the front lines of the spiritual battlefield!
So what were the characteristics of Christís life?
No worldly possessions (II Timothy 2:4).
No wife (Matthew 19:12; I Corinthians 7:32-33).
No job or career options: giving him freedom from their demands and required compromises.
No house (Luke 9:58).
No money: to be supported by the brethren (Matt. 10:9, I Cor. 9:7-15).
No responsibility except to God.
Pursuing this life with the understanding that few will follow (Matthew 9:37).
Motivated to this service by the gracious promise of God's reward (Matthew 6:19-20, Hebrews 12:2, etc,).
Not for today?
In western culture we sometimes hear the view that these characteristics were applicable to Christ and His time, but not ours. While living at that time was certainly unique, one can easily counter this understanding with the fact that the values and direction of discipleship are timeless in scope and exhorted to all generations. Once again, Biblical discipleship is characterized by a very simple, unbureaucratic, low overhead lifestyle...one that was successful in winning the first century world to Christ and establishing the New Testament Church!
Watering it down?
Another contemporary view of "leaving all" is to re-define the concept to one of having "dedicated your possessions to the Lord." As such they then somehow become magically "unworldly" and you become more "disciple like." Although this is a nice idea, and you should use your possessions in a Godly way, this is definitely not discipleship! Again, according to the Bible you are not a "disciple" if you have not forsaken all! You may call yourself a "believer" in Christ, or even more properly defined "a worldly follower" (I Corinthians 7:32-33), but you are not a disciple!!
In Matthew 28:19 Christ mandated us to make disciples of all NationsÖteaching them to observe ALL things He commanded.
First and foremost, it is necessary to have your forces defined, identified, organized and properly understood. As stated earlier, the most severe compromise within the Church today is the degradation of the leadership: God, Christ, His Spirit and Word! This solved, and the balance of the Church clearly formatted, the revival of true discipleship will place before believers a goal and service that will have itís intended effect: a realistic manifestation of the sons of God!
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