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Seeking, Finding, and Qualifying New Disciples
When Marc approached me about writing the foreword to his book, he told me the book was a “manifesto on Kingdom expansion… designed to mobilize the saints for the harvest.” Those were some pretty lofty claims! How many times have we all been disappointed when books didn’t match their publicity? It was only Marc’s reputation for sincerity and integrity that compelled me to lay aside my concerns and take the time to read it.
As I made my way through the first couple of chapters, I found myself becoming engrossed in the book’s message. By the time I had read five chapters, I declared to myself that his claims were not overstated at all.
Marc’s perspectives on American Christianity are refreshingly “out of the box.” They aren’t the critical attacks we often read that offer no solutions. His biblical logic about the way Christianity is supposed to be—rather than the standard fare we have become accustomed to—is irrefutable.
Let’s face it; the current model of over-worked pastors teaching spectator-Christians from the pulpit is not producing the vibrant Christianity we see in the book of Acts. For instance, he writes: “Christianity was a way of life, not a series of doctrines. Early followers of the Way relied on the Spirit and learned through the lifestyles of mature believers (discipleship). We have turned it into information and meetings, rather than a walk empowered by the Spirit.”
This is a troubling statement. It also happens to be the truth.
Marc has been able to cut through centuries of man’s traditions to bring us a fresh sight of the kind of Christianity that truly has the potential to be world-changing.
Marc’s solution is to get back to the model of the Early Church, when leaders led by example, not by charismatic personalities. The faith that took saints victoriously into the Coliseum was handed down through personal discipleship. Because mature believers got involved in the lives of others, the Body of Christ remained robust.
Marc Carrier is not just a modern-day reformer trumpeting a call back to godly living. He is simply sharing with the rest of us what he is actually living in his daily life. This is a man who lives what he preaches.
Manifesto on Kingdom expansion? Yes, it truly is. He has laid out the simple plan of the gospel in a way all of us can live it and move it forward. Christian leaders would do well to read this book and implement its principles into their ministries. Perhaps then we would truly see the saints mobilized for the harvest!
Steve Gallagher, Founder of Pure Life Ministries, and Author of numerous books, including Standing Firm Through the Great Apostasy and Intoxicated with Babylon.
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I started a social networking group for ministry leaders some time ago, not exactly certain what I was to do with it. It began as a resource to connect folks with a common vision and mission, to further the work of the Great Commission. What I have discovered is that very few of us ministry leaders have a clear vision for our specific and actionable roles in fulfilling the Great Commission. Most of us see our part as limited to our church, community, region, or audience. However, we have to think bigger!
We are living in the second-to-last scene of a great adventure. We are just seasons away from fulfilling the Great Commission, and you and I have an integral role to play in it. Unfortunately, I think most of us have been trained to think too small. We are bound to a church system that keeps us trapped within four walls. However, Satan’s worst nightmare is about to unfold. Presented within the covers of this little resource is the truth to give us authentic freedom and power to expand the Kingdom at rates that most of us never thought possible.
In this simple book, I will unwrap a very clear vision, an actionable mission, and concise methods and resources that will unlock the black box of Kingdom expansion. I am not talking about secrets to church growth or even church planting, but rather an extremely simple and unbelievably effective pattern of expanding the Kingdom. Yes, churches will both grow and be planted as a result. However, this we leave up to the Lord. Our commission is to make disciples; Christ said He would build His church.
The field-proven methods that I will share in this book were originally intended for ministry leaders whose job it is to mobilize the saints; however, this book is no less applicable for all of you saints who are committed to doing your part to fulfill the Great Commission. Read and meditate upon the material presented in each chapter. You will be mobilized towards one aim: fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.
May our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lead the way in taking the nations for His glory. Amen.
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2.1 God’s Glory
I would venture to say that for most of us, God’s redemptive plan for humanity is people-centric rather than God-centric. We focus on salvation and the benefits of having some kind of relationship with the Lord. As a result, we live our lives and design and execute our ministries with people in mind, rather than God. If we were honest and looked at our hearts, we might even find that our ministries minister to us. At some level we seek ministry success to satisfy our desire to accomplish a lot for God; however, the aim is misguided by our insecurities and deep needs, rather than motivated by God’s glory.
The truth is, our holy and righteous God is somewhat ego-centric—and rightfully so. Everything that was and is and ever will be is for God and His glory. Therefore, our raison d’être in life and ministry is to glorify God, and nothing more.
Through the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan thwarted God’s plan to glorify Himself through His Creation. Satan mocks God, as if saying, “Look, the humans you created for your glory follow me—all of them listen to me and sin.” This is a complete affront to God. Therefore, God’s redemptive purposes—bringing our submission and allegiance to our Creator rather than our deceiver—are designed to restore deserved glory to God, not simply to give us a get-out-of-hell-free card.
The big picture is this: we are in the center of a custody battle. There is a war raging on between God and His foe, Satan, for the hearts and allegiance of men. We are in the middle of the battle, but we are not the focal point. It’s all about them. As stated earlier, glory that rightfully belongs to God has been directed toward the devil and his works via our sin.
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)
God, through Jesus Christ, has restored glory to its rightful recipient by turning our allegiance to Him and transforming our lives. Anything less than full allegiance and radical transformation falls short of glorifying God. Yet God deserves our hearts and our allegiance, and we are blessed when we catch the vision of serving for His glory!
Unfortunately, in the pursuit of God, we often assume that reaching and ministering to the lost is the end, rather than a means to the end. As a result, we focus on conversion (saving souls) rather than transformation and seek to meet needs rather than invite folks into Kingdom life. However, I say it again: the end is to bring glory to God. God’s redemptive purposes ultimately point back to Him.
Conversion without transformation seems to rescue some from a fiery end. However, it fails to bring God glory. You can imagine Satan still mocking God: “The man you created continues to believe my lies and loves the world and sin even though he knows you suffered and died for that sin.” The untransformed “Christian” is an affront to God. Satan knows full well that an unfruitful “believer” makes a mockery of the cross, denies the power of the Spirit to change a life, and makes the faith unattractive to outsiders. You can see why it is so vital that all of our ministry efforts focus on the Lord and His glory, not on us and our plans.
Pursuing works without a Kingdom invitation likewise misses the mark. Do you think government welfare or the wonderful works the oil rich Muslim nations do throughout the world glorify God? No way! In fact, they steal God’s glory, because the Body of Christ should be meeting those needs. However, simply meeting a physical need is not “the end.” The goal should be to offer freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ—giving living water to quench the underlying thirst, real food to satisfy the soul’s appetite, and true victory, to give peace that multiplies. We were created for good works, and faith without works is dead. However, radically transformed people labor for the Kingdom, not for good works alone.
Nothing short of a radically transformed life brings God glory. Changing allegiance from Satan to God, death to life, flesh to the Spirit, sin to obedience, the world to the Kingdom—that glorifies our Creator! Satan has no recourse. Extreme transformation results in a passion for God and fellow man that is unquenchable and leads to works of service, in love. The result: a radical departure from the world and even cultural Christianity that leaves onlookers strangely curious about the God who can change a person so substantially. As a result of true transformation, the Kingdom expands organically.
How does your life reflect God’s glory? What about your ministry—what fruit is it bearing for God’s glory? Meditate on such things.
- What should be the purpose of our ministry?
- How did Satan steal God’s glory in the Garden of Eden?
- What was the purpose of God’s redemption?
- Does conversion without transformation glorify God?
- Why not?
- How does your life glorify God?
- How does your ministry glorify God?
2.2 The Kingdom
Christ ushered in the Kingdom. However, evangelical Christians invite people to heaven (or simply to church) rather than to Kingdom life. We are accustomed to preaching the Gospel of salvation only and simply meeting together, not to presenting and engaging people in the Gospel of the Kingdom (see Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Mark 1:15, Luke 16:16). Yet Jesus focused His teaching on the Kingdom (there are over 100 references to the Kingdom in the Gospels), with far less emphasis on His redemptive work, and even less on how we gather. Interesting, huh?
This may seem like a subtlety; however, it can prove significant in how we minister to folks. Evangelical Christians under-emphasize the significance of the Kingdom life and experience, while focusing much more attention on other matters: church organization and attendance, programs, doctrine, and (to a lesser extent), compassion ministries and evangelism. These are certainly designed and executed with noble intent; however, there is a vital element missing.
Now let’s paint a picture—speaking in generalities and hypotheticals. When someone becomes a church attendee, they are often simply a spectator. They more often than not see the paid ministers as responsible for ministry. And they likewise only visualize ministry in the context of the programs offered at the church. When someone is converted (without transformation), they sometimes fail to embrace the Kingdom lifestyle; they may or may not even adopt a “church” lifestyle. They often do not become transformed for a long time, if they do at all. They do not embrace the vision or engage in the mission. They do not transfer their allegiance from the world to the Kingdom, from death to life, bondage to freedom, spectator to ambassador and soldier, flesh to the spirit. Life more abundant eludes them. We stop short of the true, intended born-again experience.
As a result of the disconnect, the experience of converts and church-goers don’t differ much from the world. Where is the freedom, peace, joy, and abundant life promised by Christ? Unfortunately, it’s typically missing, because Christianity has become intellectual rather than transformational. We engage with our minds and not our spirits. Promiscuity, failed marriages, depression, and other ills plague professing followers of Christ at nearly the same proportions as the rest of the world. Not very attractive, is it? Why sign up?
I think this disconnect can be traced back hundreds of years. I personally believe that the early church had an advantage by not having the canon. Sounds crazy, I know—but think about it: Christianity was a way of life, not a series of doctrines. Early followers of the Way relied on the Spirit and learned through the lifestyles of mature believers (discipleship). We have turned it into information and meetings, rather than a walk empowered by the Spirit.
The modern evangelical church gets most of its intellectual-bent doctrine from Paul, underemphasizing the teachings of Christ Himself, and Christ’s contemporaries (John, Peter, and James). Read the “red letter” text with First John, and then James, with the Pauline lens removed, and you will see divergence from the modern Christian experience. Certainly Paul’s teachings are God-breathed; however, they are best contextualized with an understanding of his way of life—the Kingdom life. Pauline doctrine was never meant to be “learned” simply by reading a series of letters. Paul admonished his readers to “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). He demonstrated what the Kingdom life looked like and followed up with letters to address specific issues within the churches. Paul (and Jesus) showed us how to embrace the Kingdom while overcoming the world—they didn’t simply tell us. They practiced it so that they could make disciples. We must do the same.
We demonstrate the reality of Christ by how we live. We can’t confess Him with our mouths and deny Him with our lifestyles. If we do, we will certainly never achieve the vision. A sermon series, discipleship class, or reading books will not adequately present the Kingdom lifestyle so that it carries forward to others. A radically transformed life is required to transform others’ lives. Until we embrace this, we will not propagate Kingdom life.
I urge you to consider: does your faith walk demonstrate a radical departure from the world—a full commitment to the Kingdom life? Are you transformed—living life more abundantly? How attractive is your life, and how attractive do you make Christ? Meditate on these questions.
- What was the theme of Jesus’ teaching?
- Read Acts 1:3. What was the theme of Jesus’ teaching with the disciples for 40 days after His resurrection?
- Read Acts 8:12. What was the theme of Philip’s teaching?
- Read Acts 28:23 and 28:30-31. What was the theme of Paul’s teaching according to these verses?
- Christianity was never meant to be intellectual. What was it meant to be?
- Why do so many professing followers of Christ experience the same problems as the rest of the world?
- What is required to transform other’s lives?
- Early followers of Christ relied on the spirit and learned through the ___________ of mature believers (discipleship)?
2.3 Catching the Vision
For those of you who have the Kingdom vision and are on the mission, this teaching is a cool, refreshing drink of water on a hot day. For others, this is dirt in the eye, an irritation and an offense. However, I hope that irritation to your soul births a pearl, and ultimately the Pearl of Great Worth, that ignites an unquenchable passion for expanding God’s glory. I know that deep down in every believer the capacity to birth that Pearl exists. However, it is quenched by the world and all her ways. We must get beyond our religious assertions and traditions and embrace the vision, to truly be on mission. It does not matter what your denominational persuasions, or how, where, or when you fellowship; it is about your spirit’s yearning to surrender everything for the Pearl of Great Worth. If you pledge your allegiance to a system of thought or a practice rather than to God’s glory, you will not catch this vision.
This is your kairos moment. You were created for a time such as this. We are in the second-to-last scene in history. God is enlisting His army of soldiers to engage in reaping the end-time harvest. We are very near to the end, and the mission is at hand. There are no spectators for this last burst of revival. Can you sense the times? Does not the Spirit within you leap with these words? You know this to be true deep in your soul.
Every one of us can change the world. We have to think bigger than we have been conditioned to think. A single man teaching a few, contributed to an 18% increase of the Christian population in Ethiopia in just years. One failed church planter in Rwanda retooled his methods upon catching the vision and resulted in changing the nation forever—effectively ending prostitution in his area. One former bishop in Nairobi, Kenya was kicked out of his role after catching the vision; his reward? He is now at the top of a discipleship lineage 25,000 strong. These people are just a handful of the multitude of Kingdom saints impacting the world for God’s glory. Not the result of political activism or a better structure or doctrine—just transformed lives given a clear vision for the times and a strategic and actionable plan for their involvement in the mission. The rules have changed. God is on the move and enlisting the willing. Who among us does not eagerly desire such fruit?
Even as the Lord of hosts is mobilizing His people for action, men are still rushing to hell in hoards. Her fiery fate is consuming millions daily because we do not recognize the times, catch this vision, and engage in the mission. God is mocked by the devil and men. Where is our passion? Do we not care that most of the people we encounter daily are going to suffer God’s wrath forever? Does this not make us die a little each day—where are our tears for them?
The Gate is narrow; however, the path is narrower still. The Kingdom of God is not simply, “walk in and you’re in.” It is a path that requires walking. We have to show people that Kingdom life if they are going to walk the path with us. Those we lead to the Gate will never walk the path alone. They need a guide, a mentor, someone to disciple them (see Philippians 3:17 and 1 John 2:6). This is one of the critical missing elements in many evangelism methods and discipleship “programs.”
Now to get a bit personal; I do not want to but I must, because I know that the vision is not caught by mere words. Rather, my life and the Spirit must bleed into this text for you to catch this. I chase the King with reckless abandon. People call me fanatical, holier than thou, self-righteous, and judgmental, among other things. Yet, I am not greater than my Master and they called Him the same. I have been radically transformed. I get questions like “No TV? Seven children—you’re done, right? Homeschool? Fellowship in homes? Africa? All of you in that little house? No salary, how do you pay your bills?” It doesn’t phase me. I am on the mission moving full-speed ahead and not looking back. I have found the Pearl and want to glorify God by telling the world.
With all of the idiosyncrasies of my life, the unbelievers around me are the least offended. Ironically, it is the unrepentant churched that persecute Kingdom saints the most. Sinners God is working on are eerily attracted to the counter-cultural lifestyle of Kingdom saints. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and make a real difference in the world with their lives. Truth be told, the average person is not happy with their life. They have no sense of meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. They chase after entertainment, drugs, sex, money, relationships, and even religion to satisfy—but these can’t fill the need for purpose and adventure. They see that most within the church do not live much differently than those outside—because the “churched” predominantly lack transformed lives. We shoulder the burden for this; most of these folks have not been given a clear vision and specific marching orders for the mission. And if they have, they have not been shown by us leaders what it looks like, simply told (ouch!). They also have not been empowered by the Spirit or set free from sin. Multitudes of pew-dwellers wallow in worldliness, rendering the church inconsequential.
I know that these words can offend. I know all of us strive to do the best we can and many have captured the vision and possess the Pearl. For you, I hope to offer practical tools that can be applied within your context. Bear with my style—the prophet in me makes no apologies, but the shepherd in me with loving compassion for you, my fellow saints, desires not to cause you harm. Receive what is from the Lord to mobilize the Kingdom saints, and please overlook the eccentricities of my imperfect delivery.
I pray that the Lord will speak to you through these words to challenge and inspire you with greater passion in the Holy Spirit, to spread His Glory by mobilizing the saints into the Kingdom harvest. I pray that you will seize this kairos moment. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- What must you do to catch this vision?
- Why is God enlisting his army of soldiers?
- How many people does it take to change the world?
- Who persecutes the kingdom saints the most?
- Why do people chase after entertainment, drugs, sex, money, relationships, and even religion?
- What renders the modern church inconsequential?
2.4 Preparing for Battle
Why do so many people join the Reserves? Is it love for country, commitment to defend freedom, chivalry and public service, a sense of duty and sacrifice? Certainly many do join for such noble reasons; however, numerous other young men and women simply join for the benefits, such as college tuition and other signing bonuses. It may not sound very nice to say it, but let’s be honest—if they would serve without the benefits, would the government even offer them? Absolutely not! However, the government knows that to entice a sufficient reserve force, the benefits are necessary.
When those who have signed up with selfish motivations are deployed to the front lines of battle, do you suppose they really want to be there? When they signed the dotted line, we can only wonder if they really counted the cost. Is college tuition a fair trade for the ultimate sacrifice? Without a commitment to the vision (freedom) and the mission (defend and protect), no amount of compensation is worth dying for; but with a sense of duty, honor, and sacrifice—no price is too high. In fact, dedicated soldiers yearn for the front lines.
We can see a fitting analogy. Numerous believers have joined the kingdom “reserves” based on the benefits. They wanted freedom from the penalty of sin and a free ticket to heaven. They may even believe signing comes with others benefits such as health and wealth. Sometimes they reluctantly sign up, almost as if they are doing their recruiter a favor. However, do they really know what they are signing?
Do they know that they are asked to surrender everything to God for the mission? They are told to end all other allegiances: to the world, sin, wealth, pleasures of life, self, the flesh, family, possessions, and to be prepared to even give their very life for the cause. When they sign, they give up all personal rights and privileges. They must obey all orders. In fact, their failure to comply makes them a traitor, and subject to judgment. They not only fail to promote the cause, they hinder it by serving the enemy’s commander.
Do we present the truth and the necessity of counting the cost? Do those in our camps know that when they signed up, we were not at peacetime, but in the throes of battle? We are at war. The enemy has not let up. Why have we? Why are all our troops AWOL? Where are their commanders? Are we AWOL, too?
Recognize that we are at war. Millions are dying without salvation. The main reason is that we recruit our reserves, but don’t give them deployment orders. Even when American soldiers sign for selfish reasons, they still receive the same training as those who sign with more noble intent. They learn the art of warfare alongside the visionaries. And when they are deployed, they are ready to fight with valor and precision. Whether from false motives or true, they are on the mission.
We must learn from this analogy. I don’t care why or how these reserves joined our ranks. However, they need to know that we are at war NOW, and receive their training and deployment immediately. They must be shown the vision by our leadership. But, for them to catch the vision and get on mission, we must recognize we are at war as well, and be willing to count the cost.
Let me ask you—or rather, answer the Lord: have you counted the cost? Would you give up your possessions for Christ? Your comfort? Your freedom? Your wealth? What about your pride? Would you give up your home? What about your family? Now it’s getting tougher. Would you surrender your title? Your pleasures? Your fears? Your hurts? Your sin? What about your very life?
Ok, if you’re still with me, you can rest assured that God does not want you to sacrifice everything on this list right now. There is a better picture of what He wants from you. Just get a blank piece of paper. Now sign on the bottom. He will simply fill in what He wants you to give when He needs it of you. Will you sign the blank piece of paper?
Until we are ready to sign this document, we are not fit to serve in His Kingdom. Signing this document will lay the foundation for His service, and qualify us to train the reserves for the mission. The reserves will not follow us into battle until we take the flag and run headlong through the incoming fire. Reflect upon this.
Lord, speak to your people. I beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Why did you become a Christian?
- Is the reason a personal benefit or a duty?
- Did you know that you have to surrender everything?
- Write down a list of the most important things in your life (people, possessions, interests, goals, and so on).
- Read Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 14:25-33. How many things on your list are covered in the passages above?
- Would you give them up for Christ?
- Would you give your title, sins, pleasures, fears, hurts, and undivided service?
- What if God asked you to sign a blank piece of paper, permitting Him to take what He wants? Would you sign the blank piece of paper?
This is what Christ demands from His disciples!
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2.5 The Mission
I think we all know what the mission is, don’t we? It is the Great Commission. However, have we ever really taken a good look at what the Great Commission is? I think if there was a clearer understanding of what the mission was, we would take the nations in short order by mobilizing the reserves to the battle field. Here it is:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you… (Matthew 28:19-20a)
Let’s unwrap this a bit, starting with the first word, “go.” It does not say “sit and wait,” but rather GO! (And I don’t care what the Greek tense of the word is, it still means GO). This is not something meant to be confined to the four walls of a building. It does not say to invite folks for Sunday service so they can hear an altar call. It does not say be a nice person and wait for someone to ask you how to be saved. It says GO!
Next, it says what we are to do: make disciples. It does not say to get folks to say a magic prayer (conversion). It does not say to get people to give you intellectual assent or guilt or fear them into making some sort of profession of “faith.” It does not say to invite them to church and hope that years of attendance will slowly lead them to maturity. The marching orders are to make disciples.
Next it says where to start: baptizing them. No mention of a baptism class or an ordained minister. No waiting for the next scheduled baptism at the local church. No waiting until the ice thaws (try the bathtub). Go out there and baptize them immediately, which was the New Testament practice.
Implicit with the command of baptism is repentance, because water baptism is called a “baptism of repentance.” No repentance, no salvation: period. Do not participate in making false converts—that is, folks who claim the name of Christ, yet deny Him with their lives. This does not glorify God. In fact, make it difficult to be saved. If they are serious, they will sacrifice all for the Pearl of Great Worth. They must count the cost.
Insist on full repentance. Have them renounce the devil and his works, publicly. Also ask them to sign the blank piece of paper, surrendering all to God. You see, many repeat a prayer saying they will make Christ Lord of their life, but fail to understand what that means. Make it very clear for them.
Now, the final marching order: teach them to observe all Christ’s commands. This presumes that the mentor is likewise obedient; remember, the Kingdom life is about imitating a lifestyle, not memorizing doctrines. This task is not relegated to pastors and teachers of a discipleship class (that’s an oxymoron if I have ever seen one). This is for ALL believers. I know that some of you are saying “I’m not an evangelist or pastor, that’s for them” or “these commands were addressed to the Apostles only.” Well, most of Christ’s teachings and all the Epistles were addressed to others. They still apply to all of us!
The important takeaway here is that the central mission of the Church is the Great Commission; that is, making repentant, obedient disciples—radically transformed lives. These disciples are in turn responsible for doing the same (since they obey His commands, and His command is to make disciples). All other ministries must be understood in the context of the mission. We serve the poor and minister to needs in love as part of the mission, not independent of it. We even fellowship to mutually edify one another—to encourage each other on the mission (1 Corinthians 14:26). Gifted leaders are there simply to mobilize the saints for the mission (Ephesians 4:11-12). It’s all about the mission. And the Sunday spectacular is not the mission. In fact, everything else is secondary.
Now notice what it says in Ephesians 4:11-12: all saints are mission workers, not just the paid ministers or simply the “gifted.” We are all soldiers on the mission. If we break the mission down to its base component, it is simply one radically transformed saint investing their life in another individual such that they impart the vision and mission to another, radically transforming them. Then the newly transformed disciple does the same. When done correctly, an unstoppable succession of radically transformed people ensues.
Now I know what you ministry leaders are thinking. You know the mission and have taught it, but can’t get the reserves mobilized to active duty. My question for you is: are you on the mission? I am not talking about teaching and preaching. I mean, do you have a disciple whom you personally led to Christ, that you are personally discipling into obedience by sharing your life? Transformed lives are not made intellectually. They are imparted by the Spirit through much personal investment. Therefore, you can’t simply teach people to be on the mission; you must show them. You must personally impart the Kingdom vision and model the mission to develop disciples that reproduce.
Lord, I pray that you will mobilize multitudes to get on the mission. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- What is the Great Commission?
- Where does the mission occur?
- What is a disciple?
- Is conversion the same as making disciples?
- Read Acts 2:37-41, 8:36-38, 16:15, 16:33, and 22:16. In the Bible, how soon after repentance were people baptized?
- Refer to Acts 2:38, Acts 5:31, Luke 24:47 and Hebrews 10:26-31. Is there forgiveness of sins without repentance?
- What are we commanded to teach disciples?
- Who is commanded to make disciples?
- Is a evangelistic crusade, a healing revival, or a church service the mission?
- Is your ministry accomplishing the mission?
2.6 Divine Math: Multiplication
The mission is to make disciples. All else is secondary, and should only be considered inasmuch as it does not detract from the true mission. A few foundational elements are paramount to achieving success in the Great Commission in this generation. (This is not only possible, but probable.) One: the front line force must be huge—consisting of all saints. Two: the mission must be self-propagating regardless of cultural context, available resources, or giftedness. Let’s unwrap these factors and more.
We can easily complain that the problem with the harvest is that the soil is too hard. However, Jesus said there was another problem: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2). Jesus Himself concluded that the greatest bottleneck to the fulfillment of the Great Commission is the lack of workers. And it is my contention that we already have the laborers; they just are not being mobilized. They may be working, but not on the right mission. They might be serving all sorts of programs and attending numerous meetings, but not engaged in the core mission which is simply making disciples. Likewise, many leaders are often so focused on administrative duties, they are not on the mission either. Some leaders don’t even think that the command to make disciples even applies to them. They presume they are just here to preach to others to do so, or to organize classes. Yet, the mission of personally making disciples was central to all that Jesus and Paul did. The religious system that diverts our efforts today was totally avoided by the early church. And as I said earlier, the vision and mission are caught, not taught. It must be modeled to be carried on to the next generation of soldiers.
A second consideration is this reproductive chain. God’s intent was that we would be fruitful and multiply. In the Old Testament, men were repeatedly commanded to “be fruitful and multiply,” quite literally. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were promised numerous descendants. Today, we are told to bear fruit to maturity, reaping a harvest of 30, 60 or 100-fold. In fact, we see implications in the Scriptures—both Old and New Testament—of bearing multi-generational fruit (Deuteronomy 6:1-9: Moses, children of Israel, sons, and grandsons; 2 Timothy 2:2: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, others). However, the reigning ministry models and methods are based on addition, not multiplication.
The Western church system centralizes ministry around programs, events, structures, and a few formally trained individuals. Therefore, as our numbers increase, we are simply adding because of these inherent limitations. You don’t believe me? What if I said you would add 1,000 people this year—could you handle it? What about 10,000? OK. What about 1,000,000? If your ministry model can’t handle 1,000,000 people in a year, you are thinking too small!
Addition models are limiting because each of the folks being added is not expected to add more in and of themselves. The systems and gifted individuals are expected to “grow” them. And once they are matured (if ever), they in turn may simply add more folks to the system. This results in a very linear Kingdom growth curve (again, the limitation is not the harvest, but rather the labor). There are some other challenges of addition models such as using worldly drivers for attracting folks to church. Since they are often joining for the benefits and not the vision/mission, it results in more reserves, not more soldiers.
Let’s contrast that to a discipleship multiplication model. One individual disciples a new believer from his sphere of influence, or oikos. He gets buy-in on the vision, commitment to the mission, and authentic repentance followed by baptism. The mentor leads him to obedience. Within weeks, the disciple is challenged to seek a disciple of his own. He does the same thing over again while being supported behind the scenes by the original mentor. This continues ad infinitum. The focus is not how or where they assemble corporately (I hate that term), but rather is centrally focused on their accountability and obedience to Christ.
I know many of you are now experiencing heartburn: where is the accountability? I tell you the truth, there is far more accountability in a discipleship paradigm than in a big-church paradigm. Most folks in the pews are mere infants—maybe not in knowledge, but certainly in obedience—that is, if they are saved at all. Leaders, for you to be obedient to the mission at hand and have the greatest impact for the Kingdom you possibly can, you have to start thinking Kingdom, rather than local church (ouch!).
Another benefit to a discipleship model is the total removal of resources as a limitation. Disciples don’t need buildings, seminary training, or funding. The Western perception of what the mission entails has set us back hundreds of years. The presumption that these resources are necessary (with no New Testament basis), has prevented us from reaping the harvest that Jesus says is plentiful. We must now look back at our NT practices and recognize the enormous reserves we have ready to be mobilized for the mission.
Consider the possibilities by comparing an addition versus multiplication model:
Assume an evangelist wins one soul per day as compared to a saint making one disciple (obedient follower of Christ) per year. At the end of year one, the score is evangelism 366, discipleship two; year two, evangelism 731, discipleship four; year three, 1,096 to eight; year five, 1,826 to 32; year 10, 3,651 to 1,024; year 20, evangelist 7,300, and 1,048,576 saints made through discipleship. The entire world population would be reached in just 33 years, presuming just one disciple per year. This is the power of exponential growth. A better figure would be each saint making 6 disciples per year; the Great Commission would be fulfilled in just 13 years starting from scratch. If we mobilized just a fraction of the reserves we have now (just 1 million saints)—five years flat! You with me on this?
It all starts with you. Are you willing to engage in the mission yourself? Are you ready to unleash the flood of laborers? Are you willing to let go, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead His people to fruitfulness? You can be the impetus or the bottleneck, it’s entirely up to you.
Lord, I pray that you stir something up—bold and powerful in the spirit of each man and woman reading this book. I pray against any strongholds limiting their perspective—religious or otherwise. Mobilize your saints to the harvest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- What two elements are necessary for successfully achieving the mission in this generation?
- According to Luke 10:2, what did Jesus say is limiting the fulfillment of the Great Commission?
- What does the Western church system centralize ministry around?
- What resources are necessary for discipleship?
- How many converts will an evangelist make if he makes one a day for twenty years?
- How many obedient followers of Christ would be made in twenty years if a disciple made one disciple a year, if each disciple also made one disciple a year?
- How many years would it take to fulfill the great commission starting with just one disciple?
- Are you willing to get on the mission and make obedient followers of Christ?
2.7 Entrance into the Kingdom
In order to initiate a healthy, organically-reproductive discipleship movement, the right spiritual DNA must be established. Unfortunately, some bad stock has been spreading throughout Christendom for a while now. Let’s really take a good look at what the Scriptures say concerning some foundational matters.
This is the single most important book I have ever written in my life. Life and death, heaven and hell, stand in the balance. Yet I am certain to lose some of you now, because I will depart from the mainstream a bit with this teaching. But I urge you to please sincerely evaluate what I share with an open mind.
I know we all like to look at classic verses such as John 3:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9 and 13, and many others concerning salvation, because they are so black and white. They allow us to have an understanding that fits with our Western thought patterns. We are linear thinkers, and need to wrap our minds around matters to satisfy our flesh. Yet, God and His economy are much more complex and veiled in mystery. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. It is a shame that we try to unlock that mystery with systematic theologies and statements of faith. It forces us to take what He has imparted by the Spirit, and reduce it to human terms. Unfortunately, to clarify what I believe has been a radical departure from the intent of the mystery of the Gospel of the Kingdom, I will do much of the same here.
There is only one book in the Bible that was written to definitively inform believers about whether or not they will indeed enter the Kingdom of God. First John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (emphasis added). This verse sums up the purpose of John’s letter. Therefore, we can trust it to provide clear insight into these matters. Now I have seen this verse used in popular evangelism methods, with absolutely no reference to the content of the letter itself. This is very irresponsible.
Let’s look at some of the content of the letter:
And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:3-10)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
John wrote this letter for the very purpose of providing insight to believers so that they could know they have eternal life. As you can see, the standards are much higher than taught today. Yet, John says, “let no one deceive you;” otherwise, this is the correct standard to apply. He says that if you are born again, you will not continue to sin. Not my words, his. He also says if you claim to know Him and do not keep His commands you are a liar. Not my words, his. He also says if you have one ounce of worldliness, you do not know God. Therefore, walking in freedom from sin, obedient to His commands and free from all worldliness—this is the measure of whether or not you know the father and are indeed born again, receiving eternal life (I didn’t say it, he did).
This should not be surprising to us if we read Jesus’ teachings. He said that our righteousness had to exceed that of the Pharisees. He took the Law, and raised the bar big time—not just our actions anymore, we are now condemned for our thoughts as well. Most of us have been taught that if we enter the Gate, we are in. Yet Jesus taught of a path. The Gate is narrow, but the Way is narrower still. We wrongly assume we may live in a constant state of worldliness and this is acceptable. We assume that God will forgive us through His grace, regardless of what we do. Believers scream “don’t judge me,” and “God is merciful.” I will not judge, but God’s Word, which all believers claim is inspired, authoritative, and their guide for all matters, will certainly condemn them. Many will discount these words saying, “he teaches salvation by works.” Well James 2:24 says: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Further, the Bible says:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)
What? Our fine linens being works? He must have been mistaken when he wrote that! Well, let’s read the parable of the wedding feast (a parable of the Kingdom) in light of this Scripture:
But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?” And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:11-13)
Might Jesus be saying that someone got through the Gate, but didn’t walk in the Way? Let’s see what the Apostle Paul had to say about the eternal consequences of living by the flesh:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
It is no secret who will be saved and who stands condemned. Jesus taught plainly that a tree will be known by its fruit. John made it clear in his letter, and Paul confirmed it by showing us what the fruit of the flesh is. I’m sure you’re familiar with the remainder of Galatians 5 and the “fruit of the Spirit.” Concerning fruitfulness, John the Baptist said:
Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father”; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10, emphasis added)
Jesus said just about the same thing. Check the context—He is speaking to believers here!
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:4-6).
James said, “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22, see also James 2:17-18). Authentic faith results in fruitfulness.
The Bible tells us to test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12, emphasis added). Several times in the Scriptures, the saints are referred to as those who “are being” saved, rather than those who “are” saved (see Acts 2:47, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and 2 Corinthians 2:15). I think the mystery of salvation is best understood like this: do not ask a person for intellectual assent to determine whether or not the person is saved. But rather look at their life for the fruit of authentic faith indicating they are being saved. Many believe and find the Gate, but few persevere to walk the narrow path unto fruitfulness.
Understanding these truths certainly compels us to remain fruitful and on-mission to continually glorify God!
Here is some perspective on the subject of salvation from Jesus. Consider it afresh in light of John’s message in First John and the theme of this chapter:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:13-29).
Clearly, in the end many will claim Jesus as “Lord,” but in name only. They may do good works, but they have not signed that “blank piece of paper” that gives everything to Jesus, and they do not walk the path of righteousness. Their fate is not what they imagine.
I apologize for the length of this chapter. I also know that this subject is both deep and controversial. However, a clear understanding that the authentic Christian faith results in radical transformation—and an understanding that there is no “sure thing” for the one who is not persevering in faith—is foundational to launching a disciple-making movement. So I urge you to meditate on these passages with an open spirit.
Lord God Almighty, I pray that you will open minds and hearts, and remove anything that hinders your Spirit from reaching the heart, and allow your truth to sink in deep into the soul. I pray for a resolve to chase after your ways and your truth. Prevail in all things for your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- According to 1 John 5:13, what was the purpose of John’s letter?
- According to 1 John 3:3-10, did Jesus come to take away the penalty of sin, or sins?
- According to the passage, how many people who abide in Christ sin?
- According to the passage, who is the one who is righteous, the one who believes himself to be righteous, or the one who practices righteousness?
- According to 1 John 2:3-6, is someone who says they know Christ and does not obey His commands honest?
- According to 1 John 2:15-17, can someone love the world and the things of the world and still have the love of the Father in him?
- According to Galatians 5:19-21, will those who practice the deeds of the flesh inherit the Kingdom of God?
- Read John 15:1-10. What happens to those who do not abide in Christ and bear fruit?
- How do we glorify the Father and prove to be His disciples?
- According to verse 10, how do we abide in Christ’s love?
- Read Matthew 7:13-39. Does Jesus indicate it is easy or difficult to get into the Kingdom?
- In verse 19, what did Jesus say happens to trees that do not bear good fruit?
- In verse 21, who enters the Kingdom?
- Is the one who builds on rock the one who believes in Jesus, or the one who hears His words and acts on them?
- What happens to the one who hears His words and does not act on them?
- Are you personally walking the narrow path of fruitfulness, doing the will of the Father and abiding in Jesus by obeying His words?
2.8 The Big Picture
I hope I didn’t lose you in talking about the truths of salvation so bluntly. As you know, this book is designed to serve two purposes: to help ministry leaders establish good practices for launching a disciple-making movement, and to provide materials that you can use with others. I have begun laying that foundation on what many of you would consider elementary matters, but these things cannot be overlooked if the Kingdom is to advance.
In the context of this book, I have thus far presented the material as will benefit a Christian audience—not brand new converts. As your disciple-making movement unfolds, the sequence will likely be somewhat different, but the elements will be the same. So, before we go much further, let’s just take a quick look at the big picture. Under normal circumstances, the pattern below would be followed:
- Catch the vision
- Conviction of sin
- Surrender all to God
- Commit to the mission
- Commune with God
- Engage on the mission
- Cast the vision
These methods are, in practice, only marginally effective with the churched and religious. On the contrary, it is extremely effective with new disciples. This is because much unlearning must occur with the churched. Our Christian culture has so watered down the vision and mission, and honestly the Gospel truth, that re-establishing good spiritual DNA is challenging (though not impossible). A thorough teaching on First John and related passages really challenges folks towards authentic repentance. The “signing the blank piece of paper” exercise also challenges folks to squarely face up to their true allegiance: the world or the Kingdom. Everyone claims Jesus as Savior, but most realize through that exercise whether or not they make Him Lord. I contend that until they do, they are not actually saved (that exercise is better than a “magic prayer” any day).
Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of the big picture, let’s fill in some of the remaining details.
- What are the two objectives of this book and training?
- What is the normal order or pattern of events in taking a new disciple through the discipleship process?
- What is the vision?
- What is the mission?
- What is a disciple?
- What book of the Bible was written to so that the readers can know they have eternal life?
- Does ‘conversion” without transformation glorify God?
2.9 The Path to Freedom
The discussion of salvation presented in this book may deviate from what you typically hear taught. Salvation by grace through faith is what you’ll hear—and I agree, Ephesians 2:8-9 still stands. Ultimately, we are indeed saved by grace through faith—not by works or by our own self-righteousness. Salvation is beyond our reach, and so is righteous and holy living. However, this does not mean that we can disregard the standards set forth in First John (it is God’s Word, after all).
First John 5:13 certainly speaks of eternal security; however, it is conditional on freedom from sin (1 John 3:9), freedom from worldliness (1 John 2:15), obeying His commands (1 John 1:4), and walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). Not my words, his.
Let’s take a look at an event in Scripture to illustrate this point. In John chapter eight, Jesus encounters a woman caught in adultery who stands condemned. The religious folks try to trap Jesus and ask Him what to do: stone her (the justly deserved punishment) or let her go? He stumps them by telling them that he who is without sin is to cast the first stone. They scatter, knowing they are sinners also. The following discourse ensues between Jesus and the adulteress: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more’” (John 8:10-11).
I want to highlight a few things here. First, the woman never disputes her guilt or justifies her actions. She knows she is guilty as charged and fully condemned. She is literally at the verge of a painful death, and has absolutely no recourse. The silence of the text does not remove the image in my mind of a woman with much regret, remorse, and angst facing certain death. She is at her very end, and knows she deserves it.
Yet Jesus shows mercy, and by His grace forgives her for her sin. She is fully condemned and does not deserve grace, but He gives it to her anyway. However, the discourse does not stop there. It ends with “from now on sin no more.” From this we see that repentance is not just saying you are sorry, but being sorry enough to not do it again. It is turning your life around. It is realizing that you are condemned and deserve death—indeed, eternal separation from God and the punishment of hell. However, you must remember that even if you receive the grace to be saved, it comes with the edict to sin no more.
What do you suppose Jesus would do if He were facing the same woman in the court the next day, having been caught in the same sin? I know many would say that He would forgive many times and that we can repent many times for the very same act. However, this is not the case. Hebrews 6:4-6 says:
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Note the word “impossible.” Repentance is a one-way street. Therefore, it is by grace that we get a second chance, and likewise by that same grace we receive freedom and empowerment to walk in holiness and righteousness. We all believe we are saved from the penalty of sin, yet few believe (or at least live as if they believe) that we are saved from the power of sin. It’s comparatively easy to trust in God for our salvation because it is far out, and is not necessarily evidenced in our life (though I would argue that point). Yet we fail to embrace freedom from sin because it often conflicts with our experience. This is an unfortunate reality in modern Christendom.
I urge you to get your concordance out and look up the word “repent.” There is too much discourse on the subject to treat it in one short chapter. But I will leave you with one last teaching from Jesus.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9).
In line with the teachings of Jesus, the path to freedom from sin begins with repentance and ends in holiness and righteousness. Yet, we cannot experience freedom from sin in our own strength. That’s why Jesus said that apart from Him, we can do nothing (see John 15:5). We need the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this work! In the next chapter we will continue to discuss freedom, with very practical and foundational application. I know it’s not enough to just say, “sin no more.”
Lord Almighty, grant freedom to your people—not just from the penalty of sin, but from its power in our lives. You are an awesome and holy God, who by grace has given us a chance to truly live—entrance into the Kingdom. Empower us to walk in victory and teach others to do the same. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Read John 8:1-11. Did Jesus condemn the woman?
- What did He command her to do “from now on?”
- Do you think if she was caught in adultery the next day, He would forgive her again?
- Read Romans 3:21-26. Does God pass over previous sins, current sins, or future sins through Christ’s blood?
- Read Hebrews 6:4-6. What does this passage state concerning if a believer falls away?
- Read 2 Peter 2:20-22. Is it better to simply have never known Christ or to have known Him and then get entangled in the defilements of the world?
- Why do you think this is true? Read Hebrews 10:26-31 to help answer the question.
- Read Luke 13:1-9. How many years did the owner of the fig tree allow it to grow without bearing fruit before he demanded it be cut down?
- Based on this parable, will God let us live without repentance forever or does He demand we repent?
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Do these truths encourage us to sin more, or repent?
2.10 Freedom from Sin’s Power
Freedom from sin’s power is a goal for all of us. However, for many of us it is elusive. I think a lot of that stems from our understanding of the process. We tend to “work” on ourselves for an extended period of time, slowly (and not so surely) improving ourselves. Typically, evangelicals leverage secular philosophies or psychology that is simply “Christianized.” Oftentimes spiritual maturity is confused with sanctification. In looking at the methods that we use to restore a person to wholeness, one would have to conclude that the Holy Spirit is insufficient to transform a life. Again, we believe in God’s power for salvation, but not necessarily for transformation.
One Christian teacher shared a great analogy about the mystery of sanctification that has stuck with me. I have always liked it because of its simplicity—it’s not what you will find in the classic or mainstream Christian life resources! This little word picture has allowed me to live in and empower others into freedom from sin’s power with great success. The teacher compared our transformation to restoring a car. It makes sense that we work one part of the car at a time: undercarriage, engine compartment, body panels—all the while continuing to use the car as a daily driver. Yes, parts are restored. However, continued use results in new dings, new scratches, wear and tear on the drive train, newly discovered rust spots, and so on. So even though we work it one part at a time, with sweat on our brow, we never get it done. The vehicle always has something that needs “sanctification.” Sound like anyone you know?
Yet the process should look more like this: we surrender to God, He takes the car, puts it in the crusher, makes a 2-foot cube of steel out of it, and sends it to the scrap pile. Then Jesus pulls up in a stretched limo, opens the door and says, “Hop in! From now on, you’re riding with me.”
Let’s read Romans Chapter 6 in light of this analogy.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6)
We are dead to sin, having partaken in Christ’s death and resurrection. We are entirely freed—our old self is DEAD. We now have freedom from sin’s penalty and power over our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin, but rather slaves to righteousness. We now walk in newness of life. Our freedom from sin’s power results in sanctification, which leads to eternal life (verse 22; notice the consistency with previous chapters: no sanctification means no eternal life). Let no one deceive you by teaching otherwise. We are free indeed, and must receive that freedom.
However, freedom only comes when we surrender everything. If we are kicking and screaming and clinging onto the old car as Christ tries to take it to the crusher, we will not gain our freedom. That’s the same as holding onto our chains even though the shackles have been released; it is a self-imposed bondage. As a result, Satan can convince us that the shackles are latched even though it is simply us holding onto the chains (very common). What a grand deception! This robs God of His glory.
Lord God Almighty, show us our freedom and empower us to lead others to freedom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- Read Romans Chapter 6. Are those who have died to sin still bound to sin?
- Since we are slaves to the one we obey, if we still sin, to whom do we enslave ourselves?
- See verse 6:23. What are the wages of sin?
- Read Romans 1:1-7. According to verse 7, who is the letter written to, believers or nonbelievers?
- Read Romans 8:12-13. Who is this written to, believers or nonbelievers?
- What is the result of living by the flesh rather than by the Spirit?
- Romans 6:23 is often used in evangelism to show unbelievers they need to repent or they will go to hell. After reading the above passages, who do you think the verse was addressed to, believers or unbelievers?
- Read Galatians 5:16-20. Will those who live according to the flesh inherit the kingdom of God?
- How does your life measure up?
- Read Romans 6:22. We are freed from sin and enslaved to God. What is the benefit we obtain?
- What is the outcome of the holiness?
- So does the freedom from sin grant us eternal life, or is it the holiness derived from the freedom from sin that grants us eternal life?
- Is your life holy, leading to eternal life?
2.11 Freedom We Can Experience
Maybe the last chapter caused you some heartburn; after all, most of us have come to believe that struggling with sin is the normal Christian experience. However, I want you to know that we all have been given opportunity for complete and total freedom from sin’s power—it’s just that we fail to receive it.
The phenomenon reminds me of how elephants are trained. They are attached to an immovable object for a time—they pull and pull and never break free. So after a while, they stop pulling. They can be held with a tent spike from that day forward, because they are convinced that their resistance will be futile.
This deceptive training concept is similar to what happens to northern pike when they are captive in fish tanks. To prevent the large fish from eating their natural prey within the tank, a Plexiglas divider is placed to prevent the pike from reaching its prey. A short time of running into the glass trains the pike to never try again. Even with the protective glass removed, the small fish live in safety, because the pike assumes that the barrier remains.
We oftentimes walk around in bondage as a result of similar training. We have tried for so long to escape some sin patterns, we become convinced that we can’t and just stop trying. We have been deceived into thinking that the struggles we face are beyond our ability to overcome. The enemy keeps us clinging to the chains, when all the while, we have been granted freedom from them.
Notwithstanding our freedom in Christ, we cannot belittle the enemy’s influence. I now want to shed light on his methods and the root of his power in our lives.
Recall the illustration of the epic “custody battle” between God and Satan for the hearts of men, which was presented in the first chapter. We see this dynamic in the book of Job. Job apparently gave his allegiance to God—he “signed the blank piece of paper” and was willing to give it all. God reveled in the glory given to Him through His righteous servant Job, even boasting to Satan. Satan tested whether or not Job indeed “signed” by going after one line item on the sheet at a time. In the end, Job proved out that he had surrendered full allegiance to God and glory was given to God, not the devil. Job was actually not the center of the story—God and the devil were. Nor are we the center of the battle that continues to rage to this day. In fact, the same battle for the glory due God evident in Job’s life surrounds us as well.
Before we give our allegiance to God, all areas of our lives are under the authority of the devil. Our sin invites him to operate freely within our lives. Let me illustrate this dynamic.
Picture our life as a house. The door is wide open for the enemy to roam freely within the home. Our sinful life grants him full dominion. We have sins in every room: unforgiveness, anger, sexual sins, idolatry in many forms, addiction, worldliness, and much more. These permeate our being and give him permission to have his way with us.
Now imagine the transformation: when we surrender to God, our repentance cleans the house through Christ. In fact, the house is outright purchased by God, and we are no longer even the rightful owners. The deed is in His name. In actuality, sin has no permission to reside there. We still possess the ability to do so, but it is a violation of the true owner’s “house rules” for us to sin.
Absent of complete surrender, however, a different scenario plays out. If there is any area of our life that we do not give to God, the devil still has permission to operate in that area. The house has changed ownership, yet we still have a few items that we try to keep hidden.
Imagine, for example, that there is lots of jewelry in the back closet in God’s house. Who in all creation has the power and authority to steal from God? That’s right, no one! But we, being tenants in the house, can still open the door and let folks in and allow them to take things—even though they are rightfully the property of the owner, and not us the tenant. The house can indeed be cleaned and the door locked, but we allow the devil entrance. Satan is still permitted to access those dark corners. In so doing, he gets his grubby footprints in every room. That is why light needs to shine in all the dark closets, and those areas must be taken from the devil and given to God.
So what does this look like, practically speaking? A mentor takes a disciple through a spiritual inventory. Through much introspection and prayer, they must literally write down all recurrent sins, past strongholds, areas of victimization, and so on. The disciple must repent to allow cleansing. Then, out loud (because Satan can’t read minds), rebuke the enemy—take these from him by exposing light to them, command Satan to get out, and submit these things to God. State plainly that the enemy no longer has permission or authority to operate in these areas. Renounce Satan’s claim, then ask God for strength and protection—lock the door so Satan can’t get in. Then burn the list.
To sustain the victory (and to keep Satan from getting his foot in the door again), teach the disciple to live moment to moment, not day to day. If someone struggles with smoking, they may light up and fail for the moment. But in the next moment they can, mid-drag, realize their sin and repent of it, rebuke the enemy, remind the devil that he has no authority over that stronghold, put out the cigarette, and throw away the pack. There is victory moment by moment. If day by day, we too easily justify our sin by saying, “I’ll quit when this pack is gone.” Glory goes to Satan rather than God.
Now take the disciple through the same exercise next week. Some rooms really don’t get clean with one pass—carpet stains always come back a few times. The list will get shorter over time, and complete freedom is the end. God will be glorified in that life.
Now I wish I had unlimited space to deal with this subject, because it is so important for freedom from sin’s power. A radically transformed life can only occur when sin’s power is defeated entirely. However, I trust the Holy Spirit to finish where I have left off.
Lord, grant your people freedom from the enemy’s clutches. I rebuke the enemy and command him by the authority of Jesus Christ to stay away from your people. Free them from sin’s power and restore your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Who are the two powers battling for our affection and allegiance?
- When we sign the “blank piece of paper,” we transfer allegiance and lordship from who to who?
- If we do not sign, like Job did, who still has our allegiance?
- During a spiritual inventory, what three things must we take from Satan’s dominion and give over to God?
- We repent of sin, renounce strongholds, and release victimizations. Why must we do this verbally (out loud)?
- After going through a spiritual inventory with your mentor (or a future disciple), why must you repeat the exercise weekly at first?
- Do we achieve victory living day by day, or moment by moment?
- Who is glorified by gaining freedom, God or Satan?
2.12 We still sin, right?
A Word Picture:
Picture an enemy naval force advancing against your coastline. At first, they send salvos and aerial bombardment to lower your defenses. They do not take any ground, but rather constantly bombard your positions to soften your defenses and identify weaknesses to leverage. The enemy is off the coast and has unhindered ability to relentlessly pummel your coastline, regardless of your response. However, the defenses can thwart the landing with consistent perseverance. This is equivalent to temptation and resisting temptation.
Once the weaknesses are identified, the enemy sends landing craft to secure a foothold (or “place”). At this point, the enemy is taking first ground with the objective of securing a position to deter defenses and safely receive reinforcements and supplies. The enemy is extremely vulnerable at this phase of the assault and can be easily thwarted by a retaliatory strike from the defensive reserves. This is equivalent to sinning upon temptation and the retaliation is repenting resulting in cleansing by the blood of Christ.
However, if the defensive reserves are not rallied to counter the offensive landing, the enemy receives reinforcements and becomes firmly entrenched. At this point, the enemy is formidable, and deterring the advance is extremely difficult. In fact, the enemy really could not even achieve this success absent the willful complacency or capitulation of the defensive force. At some level, the defenses are let down and the enemy is even aided by the defender, allowing the enemy to become fully entrenched. The end of this scenario is eventual defeat and death. This is a stronghold, or the “willful sinning” or “practicing sin” described in Hebrews 10 and 1 John 3 (discussed later).
The only possible solution to this apparently insurmountable scenario is to call in reinforcements. Additional troops from outside the original compromised defensive lines are necessary to provide a crushing blow to the enemy, but only with the defender’s cooperation. If the defenders refuse the aid, they are abandoned to the enemy for a time, so that they come to realize that the enemy is not benevolent, and means them harm. If the defenders come around, they will repent of their treason and seek the aid of the reinforcements. With help, the enemy can be thwarted and the stronghold cleansed. Then the unity of the allies is reestablished and loyalty to the King reaffirmed.
We will discuss the Scriptures demonstrating the reality of this scenario throughout the remainder of this dissertation.
Truth and Lies
The first casualty of war is truth! A version of this quote was first uttered in 1918 by US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson. Senator Johnson knew that in order to mobilize a nation to arms in a foreign war, leaders needed to rally support through propaganda and lies. The truths behind why a war is waged and the horrors of both fighting a war and the aftermath of war are insufficient to get a population to voluntarily engage. This concept is no different with spiritual warfare as compared to carnal worldly warfare.
In the battle of Satan against God for the allegiance of men, the propaganda machine started all the way in the Garden of Eden:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
Here was the first salvo–the first attack challenging the truth set forth by our Creator. “Indeed has God said?” Certainly God had said. But the Serpent set out to cast doubt on this truth. It was a direct frontal attack on the character and trustworthiness of our Creator.
We know how this played out. Adam and Eve took the bait. They were tempted and sinned, and that resulted in death. As a result, sin entered God’s perfect Creation and every man thereafter was given a predisposition to sin.
However, God had a plan to restore us from the lies of the enemy:
“Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31-32, NASB)
After much teaching of the Kingdom laws, Jesus commanded his listeners (which includes us): “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Could He have really meant what He said? How could that be?
Likewise, Paul said: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Was that just wishful thinking, or did Paul really mean what he said?
The letter to the Hebrews says:
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”
He then says,
17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10)
John, in his first letter says:
3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 2)
Now this certainly does not line up with our experience, so how can it be true?
The letter of Hebrews says: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Temptation, Sin, and Death
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15, NIV)
We see here three elements: temptation, sin, and death. One does not necessarily need to lead to the other. A clear understanding of the spiritual dynamic at work can empower us to achieve victory over sin’s power in our life by stopping the progression from temptation, to sin, to death.
We are tempted by our carnal desires. We have a predisposition to sin dating back to the Garden. Our fallen state has given Satan dominion over us as we are enslaved to the one whom we obey (read all of Romans Chapter 6 now). Through Christ, we have been set free. The old man has died and the new man is birthed. Christ’s blood cleanses us from all of our past sins (see Romans 3:25). Jesus destroyed the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).
If you read John 15:1-10, you see that they were cleansed by the word spoken to them, but could be cut off if fruitless, defined by not obeying. Therefore, the cleansing is for past events, and future events still have a bearing on salvation.
Likewise, Jesus’ dissertation to the church in Sardis (Revelation 3) shows that the church was soiled and could only be cleansed by repentance. If they failed to repent, they would be erased from the Book of Life.
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (Philippians 3)
Paul says he is NOT perfect, but is ministering to those who ARE perfect and tells people to live up to the standard they HAVE obtained. Confused? Let me explain.
In my own words, we are cleansed by Christ’s blood and the old man dies and the new man is birthed. We are free from the devil’s power and enslaved to righteousness. At that moment, we are holy (why in Scripture we are called saints, and NOT saved sinners). We are indeed saved by grace. We are PERFECT!
At that point, we can just walk in freedom, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” for we are cleansed and not subject to the lies of the “Accuser of the brethren” (Satan), because “the TRUTH has set us free.”
However, we still have the capacity to sin. We are now God’s possession, no longer bound to our former slave master, Satan, and free to walk in holiness, righteousness, and obedience. But the same old dynamic plays out: temptation (from our carnal desires) can lead to sin, and sin to death. So how do we stop this onslaught of the enemy?
I want to introduce the concept of temptations, footholds, and strongholds. The first level of “evil” is temptation. All humans are tempted. Even Jesus was. In fact, I would argue that we must be tempted in order to prove our holiness. There is no way to determine if we are worthy of being in God’s presence unless we demonstrate our obedience, holiness, and righteousness by being victorious through temptation.
So what happens when we are NOT victorious? Sin! See below in two translations:
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, NKJV)
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27, NIV)
Anger is a natural emotion that does not have to lead to sin. Lashing out verbally or violently would constitute sin. The anger is simply an emotional response that is quite natural. Tempering that response through the Spirit and obedience to the Kingdom teachings (turn the other cheek, forgiveness, kindness for evil, and so on) renders Satan powerless. However, obeying our former slave master by responding inappropriately gives the devil a “place” or a “foothold.”
You see, Satan does not have authority to operate in our lives when we are cleansed, because we are no longer subject to the law of sin and death. We are free. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7-8, NASB). We resist the devil by not giving him a place, or a foothold, which is obeying him at the expense of the Spirit’s guidance.
If we sin, we give the devil dominion and authority to operate in our lives. He is granted a foothold. However, even this can be stopped right here. Do you remember how the church in Sardis could avoid being erased from the Book of Life? That’s right! Repent.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1)
In this passage we see a few elements thus discussed. We are cleansed by His blood if we walk in light, practicing the truth, in fellowship with Him and the saints. Here John emphatically states we do sin. Yet in the same letter he says if we are born of God, we can’t go on sinning! Confused? Well, what he is saying is that anyone walking in the Light, abiding in Christ, will subject themselves to the Spirit and repent, confessing their sins to God and to each other. The result? A clean slate–that is, PERFECTION!
Again, the foothold is taken away from Satan, we are holy (saints, NOT saved sinners), and we are righteous. However, if we continue to sin, it just shows we are carnal, not abiding in Christ, grieving the Spirit. Read Galatians 5 below:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Now what happens if we continue to sin? A stronghold is formed. What is a stronghold? It is when we continue sinning, and at the point we justify, and even defend the sin, it is a stronghold of Satan in our lives. In Scripture, it is defined as “every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” It is a lie–a direct assault on the truth. Satan once again says “indeed has God said?” See below.
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10)
Pick any one of the commands of Christ or Apostolic commands. Obedience is submission to the Spirit, and walking by the Spirit–abiding in Christ. Disobedience is the result of ignorance–believing a lie in lieu of the truth. When we defend the lie, we actually go as far as to serve Satan. We justify the sin and encourage others to likewise disobey so that we do not feel shamed or convicted that we are the only one disobeying (Romans 1:32). In essence, we sense safety in numbers. We believe this lie even though Jesus said wide is the way that leads to destruction, and narrow is the way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). We even search out teachers to comfort us in our sins and agree with our views, in spite of the clear warning that this would happen in the last days (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
So when we believe and defend the lie, it is a stronghold of Satan, and only can be broken down through the power of the Spirit. However, the Spirit is grieved and no longer in operation in the person with the stronghold. Therefore, the saints must step in!
In the US, where independence and rugged individualism reign, the church (or assembly of Christ’s followers) has been rendered inconsequential. The fact that someone can simply leave a “church” and join another whenever they are made uncomfortable with their sin, has led to entire institutions full of sinners who deceive themselves into believing they are still saved. All this even though Jesus and the Apostles warned us that we would be deceived in this way (read 2 Peter 3:14-18, Matthew 7:15-20, 1 John 3:7, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Jude 4).
However, Scripture demonstrates mutual accountability and empowerment of the Body of Christ. There is power and authority in numbers!
15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18)
Christ’s affirmative response to prayer, his presence, and discipline are all CORPORATE in nature. Jesus actually didn’t teach much about the nature of the “church,” but much more emphasis was about the nature of the Kingdom of God. But this much He made clear: discipline has real protocol.
It begins with the offended addressing the offender. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). The objective is to bring them to repentance, which is taking the foothold away from Satan and preventing the formation of a stronghold. If they fail to repent, then a second person accompanies the offended to make clear to the offender that the claim by the offended is substantiated. Repentance, which cleanses the offender by Christ’s blood, releases the foothold and restores their right standing with God.
However, if they justify and defend their sin, a stronghold results, grieving the Spirit, granting Satan authority in their life. This is when the church passes judgment and they are cast out and shunned. They are handed over to Satan for him to have his way with them. But don’t for a second think this is done for a reason other than love. Let me demonstrate.
In the letter to the church in Corinth, we see a perfect example of church discipline. Paul made the case that the church must discipline sinners.
1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Corinthians 5).
Paul says not even to associate with unrepentant sinners–not even to eat with them. He says it is the church’s responsibility to deal with sinners who are “so-called brothers.” But let me shed light as to why this must be done. It is not just to maintain the purity of the church (which is indeed an objective). It is to bring the wayward person to repentance and restoration. Handing him over to Satan can lead to his salvation.
Paul taught: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Rejection from the church leads to sorrow, which leads to repentance and salvation. This is very good. Ignoring someone’s sin does not help them at all. In fact, it is a one way ticket to Hell. Ignoring sin is simply avoiding confrontation–either an individual exercising self-love, or a church avoiding losing membership (thereby serving two masters, God and mammon).
In the end, after the person was shunned for a while and repented, Paul counseled to restore him to the church. “6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2).
We also see the power of the church for the forgiveness of sins and answered prayer (consistent with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18) in James 5:
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. (James 5:13-16).
When it comes to defeating the powers of darkness, light must be shed on that darkness. Many verses have been provided at the end of this text concerning truth and lies, and light and darkness. Meditate on these truths.
Confession of sins, and corporate prayer and discipline will crush Satan’s schemes. So where do you start? I encourage you to start by reading the excerpts from Keys to Kingdom Expansion, provided as the next section of this work. Then find an accountability partner and work through the Spiritual Inventory provided as the third section of this text.
Once you have been cleansed through repentance, renouncing, and releasing, maintain a clean slate by walking in a constant state of repentance, being cleansed by the blood of Christ, listening to God’s grace at the Spirit’s leading. God’s grace has power to save if we walk by the Spirit. See below what Scripture says about the power of working of God’s grace.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14, NASB)
The work of God’s grace through the power of the Spirit is not a “completed on the cross” kind of thing. It is an ongoing cooperative relationship. He leads us and simply wants us to follow His leading. Through His leading, we walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh and simply repent when we fall short being cleansed by the blood of Christ.
From there, bathe yourself in the teachings of the New Testament, obeying what you read, and disarming the darkness by shedding the light of the truth on that darkness. Recognize that Jesus meant what He said and that we will ultimately be judged on His words. In your journey, be attentive to the words: “what that really means is…” This is Satan’s language. He is again saying, “indeed, has God said?” Remember that what it says is exactly what it means. Disregard any commentator (which is most of them) who tries to tell you that Scripture means something other than what it actually clearly says. Just a little study of the beliefs of the very early church (Ante-Nicene writing) will show that for hundreds of years Christians obeyed the New Testament writings quite literally, with special emphasis given to Jesus’ teachings and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7). Read it for yourself and obey it, literally.
God bless you in your journey from bondage to freedom from sin, lies to truth, darkness to light, and from the world to the Kingdom!
- Who are we slaves to?
- What are the three levels of evil?
- Does temptation lead to death?
- How can we be perfect?
- Can a Christian gain freedom from a stronghold individually?
- Read 2 Samuel Chapters 11 and 12. How did David respond to the initial temptation?
- When the foothold was established by Satan, did David repent?
- What was the result of David not repenting when he should have seen his sin?
- When the stronghold was established, could David see his own sin?
- Who helped him to see his sin?
2.13 Communing with God
When we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are oftentimes quickly given a Bible and told that it is the rule-book for life. Granted, this is a partial truth, but I believe this portrayal of God’s Word seriously diminishes its true intent—which is to point us to Him.
The Bible is not the end; it is a means to the end. The end is to glorify God through our restored allegiance to Him, that allegiance resulting in a radically transformed life. The Word is there to provide us with insight, examples, and direct communication with our Creator and Redeemer, through the Holy Spirit. We are invited to hear from God, if we would just open our hearts to what He is saying.
Many with formal Bible “training” will be alarmed at my saying that we do not even need the written Word. However, we were told in no uncertain terms that the Spirit is sufficient to instruct us (see 1 John 2:27 and John 16:13-15). The written Word simply serves to open our ears to His voice. This truth actually plays out in the persecuted Church throughout the world where many believers live radically transformed lives, with just bits and pieces of the complete canon (much like the NT church). Sometimes I think that the way the Word is used can hinder our relationship with God rather than encourage it.
We all believe Hebrews 4:12, which says,
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Yet in practice, we oftentimes treat it as a history book and a rule book—not the living and active, multi-dimensional Word of God. Here in the West, we have the complete Bible and many, many other resources telling us what it all means—making us knowledgeable far beyond our ability to obey. In fact, this knowledge-centric practice subjects us to judgment (see James 4:17, Matthew 7:24-27, and James 1:22).
I suggest we take three steps back, to the very basics, and practice listening to God’s voice and obeying what we hear. That is the foundation for healthy spiritual growth.
Here is some practical counsel to instill healthy practices in your new disciples. For starters, I recommend a simple reading plan: one chapter in Psalms, one in Proverbs, one Gospel, one Acts, one Epistle, and one Revelation, daily. This takes about 20 minutes and will give your disciple a healthy sampling of the essence and working of God. But reading is not enough.
I also suggest an equally simple method to ensure that Bible reading is opening the door to hearing from the Spirit and becoming a “doer” of the Word. Set up three columns in a journal: the verses read, what God is speaking to you personally through the passage (not simply facts), and what He wants you to do with what you learned (personally). This pattern allows the new disciple to seek God’s voice and conditions them to look at God’s Word as a means of hearing from Him. It also encourages obedience and action. Inaction and disobedience is sin (James 4:17). And we should strongly discourage the practice of acquiring knowledge in the absence of obedience. This pattern of behavior is rampant in modern Christendom, and a tough habit to break. If adopted, it will be difficult to propagate a healthy discipleship chain.
Likewise, teach your disciple how to pray. We have already briefly covered hearing from God. Well, prayer is two-way communication. Teach your disciples to ask, yes, but also to listen for a response. Likewise, teach them to just glorify God—praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Do not simply come to Him with a wish list. How does that bring Him glory?
Teach them to intercede for the saints. Have them pray for their own discipleship candidates for 15 minutes a day. Have them pray for the community, their family, and other needs. This will establish a good pattern of considering other’s needs, rather than having a prayer time that focuses on their personal needs only. Teach them to pray without ceasing—a perpetual thought-life of communicating with God.
Teach them and encourage them to fast right away. Fasting suppresses the flesh, allowing more clarity in hearing the Spirit. I recommend a fast one day per week, specifically to focus on finding a disciple of their own to share in the faith journey. As they hear God more and see how fasting intensifies their intimacy with God, they will learn how to incorporate fasting as an integral part of their spiritual life.
If these habits are established early with your disciple, you just about guarantee that the Lord will personally speak to, nurture and guide this disciple going forward. They will not be hindered by external drivers. They will be predisposed to constantly seek His counsel and obey what they learn. These are great patterns and habits to establish right away with your disciple to initiate and ultimately propagate a healthy spiritual DNA multi-generationally.
In a future chapter, I will offer additional tips that will help to avoid acquiring and propagating bad spiritual DNA.
Lord, I pray that your people would learn to hear your voice and eagerly desire to commune with you. I pray that you quiet the distractions in life to allow them to cherish their time with you—to gain understanding, guidance, and obedience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- What is the purpose of the Bible?
- If the Bible is not the objective, but rather a means to the objective, what is the objective?
- Read 1 John 2:27 and John 16:13-15. Who is actually our teacher?
- Because of bad habits, most “Christians” are knowledgeable beyond their ability to _________?
- Read James 4:17, Matthew 7:24-27, and James 1:22? Is it acceptable to read Scripture and not obey what we read?
- Read John 12:47-50. What will judge us on the last day?
- Read also John 14:24. Did Jesus just speak by his own initiative or was what He said by design?
- So what words in the Bible are the most important?
- Read John 14:15, 14:21, and John 15:10. Can we love Jesus and not obey His commands?
- Why is it wise to journal with three columns when we read the Word: Verses read, what they mean, what you should do with what you learned?
- Why do we pray?
- What should your disciples start praying for 15 minutes a day and fast one day per week, right away?
Now I will teach on a subject that has, unfortunately, become somewhat controversial. However, I would be remiss to not teach this material, since the purpose of this series is to mobilize the reserves to the battle field. And the last thing I want to do is send them to the front lines unarmed—and worse yet, with guns in their hands, but no ammunition.
Before we look at our personal empowerment, let us first study the example set forth in Scripture about Jesus Himself. Most of us presume that because of Jesus’ divinity, He simply operated in, by, and through His own innate power. However, I think the Scriptures impart a different perspective. Philippians 2:5-8, the single best discourse concerning the mystery of the incarnation, indicates that He voluntarily emptied Himself of His divinity and took on the form of a man. If this is indeed true, where did He get His power from?
The Scriptures are relatively silent about Jesus’ early life. Our best understanding is that He was a small town man who lived quietly as a carpenter. Luke 3:23 tells us that His public ministry did not begin until He was about 30 years old. Of particular significance are verses 21-22, which reveal that before He began His public ministry, He had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Then we read in Luke 4:1, 4:14, and 4:18 that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” “led by the Spirit,” “in the power of the Holy Spirit,” and that “the Spirit of the Lord was upon [Him].” Now we all know that following these events Jesus went around teaching with authority with many demonstrations of power. Coincidence? Hmmm…
When Peter spoke to the Gentiles in Caesarea, he described Jesus to them in this way:
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38 emphasis added)
With this basis of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, let us slowly shift gears to the saints. The account of John the Baptist speaking of Jesus coming after him is recorded in all four Gospels with slight variation (John 1:33, Luke 3:16, Matthew 3:11, and Mark 1:8). Here is the shortest version: “I baptized you with water; but He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8). I know the term “baptism of the Holy Spirit” immediately raises red flags—which half tempts me to use another term. However, this is the term used by John the Baptist, Peter, Jesus Himself, and the writers of five books of the Bible. I can’t justify calling it anything else.
We read in John 14:12, right after Jesus tells the disciples to believe in Him because of the miracles He has performed,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)
How would His going to the Father possibly lead to those believing in Him doing greater works than He performed? He answers that question in verse 16: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16). Further, John 16:7 says: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” He promised He would send the Holy Spirit!
Here are Jesus’ last instructions for His disciples before His ascension (the “going to the Father” cited above): “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Both Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16 make it clear that Jesus told them they would receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit;” He even used that terminology. In Acts 11:15, Peter clearly references the disciples’ initial experience at Pentecost as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” the promise from Jesus. He compares it to the event that happened to Cornelius and his acquaintances, saying they had received the same gift as the disciples had at the beginning. Hmmm, Pentecost marking the beginning of their ministry—do you see a pattern here?
I know that many believe that these manifestations of the power of God have ceased. However, the Biblical basis for this argument is suspect. The First Corinthians 13:8-10 argument that “perfection” has come (in the form of the canon) is a bit wanting. First of all, if perfection is here, that suggests the war is over—the Kingdom is established and the enemy is subdued. Just watch the evening news, and you’ll see that this is not the case.
Along with this comes the itemization of the “ceased” gifts. It is easy to target the power manifestations (prophecy and tongues), but is anyone trying to say that knowledge has ceased as well? Really?
Well, weren’t the manifestations of power only for the Apostles? On the contrary, we see in Acts that folks beyond the 12 (plus Paul) operated in power (Acts 9:17-18). Mark 16:17-18 is clearly addressed to all saints and itemizes several gifts that can only manifest by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said the same thing in John 14:12. Likewise, First Corinthians chapters 12-14 were addressed to all the saints. In them, Paul told the believers to eagerly seek the greater gifts (prophesy specifically), and not to forbid the speaking in tongues (both practices forbidden by many today in spite of Paul’s admonition).
Now matters of the Spirit are a bit mysterious. We know that the Spirit is imparted at some level to convict of sin prior to regeneration (John 16:8). We also know for certainty that we are given the Spirit as a seal of redemption at rebirth (Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30, and 2 Corinthians 1:22). For example, in the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit was imparted to the disciples as a clearly distinct event prior to the baptism at Pentecost. “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).
Yet, we also see a clear pattern in Scripture of those empowered by the Holy Spirit (called the baptism of the Holy Spirit) after regeneration, sometimes even before water baptism (for example, the Gentiles with Cornelius, see Acts 10). Then we see some being “filled” with the Holy Spirit after the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Peter was filled three times after Pentecost). Mysterious? Yes. True? Absolutely!
Scripture suggests that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift that is specifically designed to empower us for ministry. This was a clear pattern in Jesus’ ministry and in the ministry of the Apostles. For Jesus said,
“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Now there is equally sufficient evidence to conclude that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not required for salvation. It is simply a gift for empowerment. A talented teacher named Apollos taught accurately concerning Jesus and definitively demonstrated that Jesus was the Christ. The disciples told others to welcome him. Yet Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul all noticed something lacking (See Acts 18:24-28 and 19:1-7). Paul asked Apollos if he had received the Holy Spirit. He said he received “the baptism of repentance” only. Paul laid hands on him and his acquaintances and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Were they saved before this encounter? Clearly.
Now I urge you to seriously consider the patterns set forth in Scripture. These patterns are still followed throughout the world today, yet some contest their authenticity. I pray that you will open your mind and heart to these truths. Sincerely now, without the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting itself in and through us, we tremendously limit our ministry. His power is one of the (if not THE) most important keys for Kingdom expansion.
I urge you to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit if you are not already baptized. Pray through Luke 11:13 below (ask, seek, knock). Likewise, I suggest that you find some Spirit-filled folks to lay hands on you and pray for you—this is a clear pattern throughout Scripture as well. And do the same for your disciples. Give them the weaponry and ammunition they need to fight on the frontlines of Kingdom expansion.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)
Lord, empower your saints and embolden them for your mission. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Read Luke 4:1, 14, and 18 and Acts 10:38. Where did Jesus get His power?
- Read John 1:33, Luke 3:16, Matthew 3:11, and Mark 1:8. John baptized with water. What did John say Jesus would baptize with?
- Read John 14:12. What did Jesus say we would do after He went to the Father?
- Read John 14:16 and 16:7. Who did Jesus say He would send to the disciples after He went to the Father?
- Read Luke 24:49. What was going to happen when they waited in the city and received the promise from the Father?
- In Acts 11:15 and 16, what did Peter call this experience?
- In Acts 1:5, what did Jesus call this experience?
- Read Mark 16:17-18. What signs will accompany those who believe?
- According to Acts 1:8, what would the disciples do when they received the power of the Holy Spirit?
- Read Acts 18:24-28 and 19:1-7. Did Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla consider Apollos complete even though he received the water baptism of repentance?
- How did they receive the Holy Spirit?
- Did they speak in tongues?
- Read Luke 11:13. What should we do to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?
2.15 Seeking, Finding, and Qualifying New Disciples
As soon as you catch the vision, accept the mission, repent, obtain freedom from both the penalty and power of sin in your life, release strongholds, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, you need to engage in the mission. That means you need to seek and find a disciple to whom you will cast the vision and continue spreading God’s glory.
So where do you start? Always, start by fasting and praying. Solicit intercessors to join as well. Pray 15 minutes a day for a disciple. I also recommend fasting one day per week, specifically for your disciple(s). A good practice is to skip two meals—go dinner to dinner or lunch to lunch. The purpose is to soften the beach before the landing. Changing allegiance from the world to the Kingdom and catching the vision is an act of God, not man. We must tap into His power. This process is not an intellectual exchange. He must be leading the way.
The best place to identify disciples is by ministering to needs in your community. Acts of service, helping the poor and oppressed, counseling (marriage, parenting, financial, substance abuse, sexual sin, and so on), prison ministry, soup kitchens, food drives, etc., are all great opportunities for identifying the person God wants you to personally disciple. People in need are ideal discipleship candidates because there is tension in their lives, and they are usually looking for a change. Interestingly, people already in a state of transition are always the most receptive. Remember that!
Street evangelism and public preaching are good, but aren’t for everyone; the loving touch of service also has the benefit of reaching the heart of the recipient. Even if you choose a less personal method, be careful not to make converts, but rather be vigilant to follow through with discipleship. Nothing short of a transformed and obedient life glorifies God.
The apostolically gifted should seek untapped groups (the first convert in a family, community, and so on). The first disciple is the most important one to be sure that they are appointed by God—the “man of peace” (see Luke 10, biblical examples: Lydia, woman at the well, Cornelius, Philippian jailer). This person has been prepared by God to reach their sphere of influence. They are typically influential. As a result, their radical transformation gains some attention. These folks are normally seekers, and eagerly digest these things. From there, the “man of peace” and future generations of disciples will target their sphere of influence, or oikos. This is the pattern until future generations of apostolically gifted are raised up and again seek out another “man of peace.”
A healthy cycle for discipleship is to seek a new disciple as soon as two or three weeks into being discipled (a month at the latest, if they are really struggling to gain freedom and empowerment). Then have another disciple in queue within two to three months, preferably two. The reason for the quick turnaround is because the sooner your disciples engage in the mission, the more likely the vision and healthy spiritual DNA will make it to the next generation.
One consideration in choosing a disciple is the convenience of investing quality time with him/her. Choose folks that live close enough to meet regularly or even just drop in once in a while. If someone lives an hour away, it is far less likely for regular interaction to occur—and this time investment is necessary for effective discipleship. Otherwise, the organic process will turn into a series of planned meetings.
Now a disciple must also be, in a sense, “qualified.” You do not want to waste your time on folks who simply don’t want to or are unwilling to grow. They will sap your energy, effectively halting a disciple-making movement. These folks do not carry the vision to the next generation (and if they did, it would be the wrong DNA). They are sent by the devil to thwart the advance. Simply move on and relegate them to the pews as perpetual “reserves.”
A disciple must be fully committed to the vision and mission. They must surrender all to God—demonstrated by the “signing of the blank piece of paper.” Failure on any of these is immediate disqualification. Be sure to avoid the temptation to itemize the “sins” they will have to give up—just go for unconditional surrender. The itemized list will come during repentance and tearing down strongholds. You just want commitment for now.
Your disciple must be able to receive from you. They have to trust you and be open. They will never gain freedom from strongholds without openness. You, in turn, must provide them love and encouragement. You can’t be overly critical or domineering. They need a loving older brother, not a nagging mother.
Further qualify them with weekly assignments. Satan will work hard to keep them distracted with other affairs. They must hold onto the vision and keep their sights on the mission. Be vigilant in reminding them of this.
Be careful in targeting the churched. There is much unlearning to be done if you are trying to instill fresh Kingdom DNA in someone who has a history of “church” DNA. But by all means, for those who have a hunger to go from the reserves to the battlefield and meet all the other criteria above, go for it! We need all the soldiers we can get.
Also, it is wise to match the mentor and disciple: women with women, men with men, as is appropriate. We do not wish to have folks of the opposite sex discussing sexual strongholds. Likewise, it is prudent to match more mature mentors with less mature disciples, so that they have the experience to provide life counsel (you don’t want a college kid mentoring a married man with multiple children, for example). This is not a hard and fast rule; just be wise.
Now concerning how many disciples to take on, here is some guidance. A new saint should limit it to one at first. Then add as many as the Lord sends that you can handle. But please bear in mind, the mentor supports their disciples’ disciples from behind the scenes as well. So consider wisely how many is reasonable for you. Expect a few hours of commitment per week per disciple. The absolute upper limit for a mature saint with full-time commitment to discipleship should be about 10. Jesus Himself simply took on 12 and circumstantial evidence suggests Paul took on less than half that number. I think five or six is a big commitment. When you get beyond that, start having your first level disciples mentor the new folks.
Lord God Almighty, give your people discernment to identify the disciples you have prepared for them. Prevail, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- Where do you start with finding new disciples?
- Where is the best place to find disciples?
- If you are apostolically gifted, whom should you seek out?
- Name three examples in the Bible of the “man of peace.”
- How soon after surrendering to the Lord should a disciple seek a disciple of their own?
- Why should your disciple seek a disciple so soon after they surrender and gain freedom from sin and the filling of the Holy Spirit?
- Why should you seek a disciple that lives close to you?
- Why must you be selective in “Qualifying” disciples based on their commitment to grow?
- What the key first steps for qualifying a disciple?
- What must you do to further qualify them?
- Why is it best to target the unchurched?
- How many people should someone disciple?
2.16 Discipleship Tips and Tools
Fellowship with your disciple at least a few hours per week. Do life together. Meet their family. Share meals. Develop a solid relationship based on mutual love and respect.
Build a solid foundation using the patterns presented in this guide. And as crazy as it sounds, try to avoid engaging in discipleship activities in a “church” setting for the first several weeks. Am I asking you to tell your disciple not to attend church for a while? EXACTLY! Let me explain.
Much of what I have presented here is not part of the institutional church DNA. If the disciple is taught Kingdom DNA (such as the centrality of God’s glory, total obedience, being a “doer” and not just a “hearer,” engaging on the mission immediately, everyone a soldier, wartime mindset, listening to God, holy living, Christianity as a way of life, complete freedom from sin, and so on) and sees another practice at church, they will be predisposed to adopt the lesser of the two. They must be sufficiently indoctrinated with the Kingdom truth and lifestyle before they should be exposed to cultural Christian practices. Otherwise, you may lose them to the “church” rather than engrossing them in Kingdom life.
Be sure to develop a strategic plan with your disciple. Have them (and help them) put together a prayer team to support their growth and discipleship efforts. Set goals and provide accountability. A reasonable goal is to get to the next generation in two months. By two weeks, they should start praying for their own disciple. By two months, they should be discipling someone of their very own.
Now you will certainly still be supporting them from behind the scenes, going through all the same things in the cycle pattern set forth in this resource. And within months, their disciple will get their own disciple. When you hit the fourth generation, you have started a disciple-making movement—and not until then. It becomes a movement when the DNA and vision carry on without your involvement—it is in God’s hands, and not yours. At that point it is unstoppable.
Engage in the mission with your disciple. Show them what it means to be a disciple by doing life together. Do not attempt to disciple them through a series of meetings and teachings. Serve together in compassion ministries, street evangelism, and community service. Telling people to do these things is a poor substitute for doing them. Demonstrate what “loving your neighbor” looks like. And don’t get trapped into plugging them into a series of “church” programs. They have to learn to see the Christian experience as the Kingdom lifestyle, and not simply a part of their life.
A great acronym to remember for training is MAWL: Model, Assist, Watch, and Let go. Model the Kingdom lifestyle, offer specific suggestions and encouragement for your disciple, be available in a “watching” mode as they grow, then let them go once they have successfully perpetuated the training sequence into the second or third generations. One rule is to never do for them what they can and should be doing by themselves, even if you know you could do it better. They have to learn, and yes, that involves making some mistakes.
When you fellowship with your disciple, be strategic. Yes, simply enjoy each other’s company. But also discuss sin struggles and thought life. Expect repentance and pray with them for deliverance. Ask them about their prayer life and time in the Word. Ask them what the Lord is speaking to them.
For disciples caught in destructive lifestyles, teach them the difference between friends and acquaintances, and encourage them to temporarily disassociate with acquaintances who would inhibit them from refusing temptations. However, advise them not to burn bridges, because you certainly do not want them to diminish their pool of potential disciples when their time comes to minister to others. Pray for, and help them find, positive relationships and replacement activities that will encourage them in their new lifestyle.
For pastors, gifted leaders, and those born and bred in the institutional environment: don’t try to control or suppress the move of the Spirit! Be open to these folks meeting in different ways, not necessarily connected to your church. I know it may be hard, but you have to let it go and focus on the vision, God’s glory, and the mission, which is making disciples. Train yourself to think Kingdom expansion rather than local church growth. These folks may or may not attend your church. They may meet organically, or form house churches. One thing that is a possibility, is that even if they meet with your church, they could form a sub-culture within the body if there is a severe disparity between the Kingdom and institutional DNA. Don’t let this scare you. God is glorified and the mission proliferates multi-generationally.
Now, about what to teach: there is far too much to include in this short text. The prior reading plan presented is a great start for allowing the Spirit to guide. Then address needs as they arise. Some great resources are available at www.mentorandmultiply.com and www.paul-timothy.net, many free. I recommend a couple great books entitled Standing Firm through the Great Apostasy by Steve Gallagher and Megashift by James Rutz for understanding the times we live in. Shepherd’s Storybook by Thiessen, Thiessen, and Patterson is a simple, yet comprehensive discipleship tool to consider (www.KingdomDriven.org in print for a few bucks or as a free download at www.paul-timothy.net). Of course, there are tons of great resources out there. But there is no substitute for God’s Word. Everything else must be measured against that standard.
- How much time should you commit to your disciple?
- Why is it best to avoid engaging in discipleship in a “church” setting at first?
- What are some attributes of Kingdom Christianity?
- How can a disciple begin discipling their own disciple so quickly?
- How many generations of disciples constitutes a disciple-making movement?
- What are some things you should do with your disciple on the mission?
- What is the acronym for training (MAWL) stand for?
- Why is it important for pastors and institutional church leaders to not control the discipleship process?
Even though this is a very brief book, the amount of potentially new information can seem overwhelming. In this section, I just want to make it clear how all of the discrete pieces fit together into a seamless pattern. It’s quite simple, once internalized, and will become very natural once applied.
Pray and fast in a disciple. Once you have identified this person, start by casting the vision. The mentor must instill in the disciple an insatiable desire to glorify God, understanding the shortness of time and the spiritual battle that wages for the allegiance of men. Help your disciple “count the cost” of surrendering his or her life to God. Share with them the necessity of living a radically transformed life and engaging on the mission.
In order to move forward, the disciple needs to fully understand their standing before God. The First John and related passages can reasonably convict us all and grow in us a healthy fear of the Lord. This specific teaching can lead to genuine repentance. For the unchurched who have no knowledge of the Gospel, you would share concerning our fall into sin, our deserved punishment, Jesus’ incarnation, His death as payment for the penalty of our sin, and the resurrection as proof of His power over sin and death. Once they have this very basic understanding and have evidenced repentance, take them through the “blank piece of paper” exercise, demonstrating Jesus as Lord of their life. If they make a full commitment to God and the Kingdom, they should be baptized and you can proceed working with them by meeting several hours per week with them.
During your first meeting(s), go through the spiritual inventory. Here sins and strongholds are identified, and deeper repentance occurs. This is where the slate is cleaned: the enemy is rebuked, his hold on those areas is renounced, and everything is given to God. Repeat this exercise weekly until Satan’s hold is totally broken.
The next step is to pray for empowerment. Pray for your disciple to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Between meetings, one of the “assignments” can be to study the Scriptures about the baptism and to pray for this gift. The baptism may or may not be accompanied by speaking in tongues; allow the Holy Spirit to do what He wants.
After this, your disciple should be praying and fasting for a disciple of his or her own. By now they should be following some kind of Bible reading plan (or at least be reading on their own regularly), and also taught to listen to God’s voice. Journaling about what to read, as suggested, will be helpful in confirming their understanding of Scripture and in seeing that the Holy Spirit is teaching them and leading them into greater obedience.
Engage in ministry (service or otherwise) with your disciple to see if the next generation candidate emerges. Live a life of service and love together. Once a disciple is identified, support your disciple from behind the scenes as they continue the next cycle.
Can it get any easier than this? This is a simple, practical, biblical, comprehensive, and effective pattern for launching an unstoppable disciple-making movement. Now do not simply be hearers, but be doers.
Lord Almighty, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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2.18 Marching Orders
Remember, humanity is caught in the middle of the epic struggle between God and His doomed foe, Satan. Our allegiance and affections are sought to glorify one or the other.
Again, think about it as a custody battle. Satan rebelled against (divorced) God and was kicked out of the house (heaven). Now Satan, to satisfy his own ego, wants the children. He does not love the kids but just wants them to get to God. So he works to win our allegiance and affections. The wayward parent always attracts the children with worldly things: riches, pleasures, and freedom to do as they please. And they tell lies about the good parent, designed to keep their allegiance.
The good parent is very different. Because they love the children and know what is best for them, they make them eat their lima beans, go to bed on time, and restrict their unhealthy appetites. So the foolish children chase immediate satisfaction in the care of the wicked parent, at the expense of long term well-being. To the contrary, the wise children seek the protection of the righteous parent.
I am confident that if you have read this far, you have decided who will receive your allegiance and affection. And any of us who have walked the path of wickedness know full well that the devil’s allures, as attractive as they once were, lead to pain and heartache. So we have a unique perspective. Yet many of our siblings are being deceived by the lies and give their allegiance to Satan.
What are we to do about it? We need to tell them the truth! We need to go out there and show them where the lies end. We need to tell them that they are pawns in an epic battle for their allegiance and affection. We need to tell them that true freedom and fulfillment only come through submitting unconditionally to our Heavenly Father.
Making disciples is simply taking people through the healing process of becoming free from the devil’s lies, and surrendering to a loving Father. Then, we help them get closer to their righteous and holy Father, and nurture a zeal to take others on the journey of truth, freedom, and empowerment.
Friends, Jesus tells us to love our enemies because they are not our enemies; they are simply deceived children used as pawns to steal God’s glory. So let’s go out there and steal our wayward siblings from the clutches of their deceiving father, the devil.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a)
The truth shall set you free! Freedom is power, and power leads to God’s glory! Now go out there and spark an unquenchable fire of Kingdom expansion!
Lord God Almighty, I pray that your glory will cover the whole earth. I pray that the enemy would cringe at the advancement of your glory. I pray that your laborers would storm the gates of hell, and initiate an unstoppable movement of radically transformed lives. Lord, free your people with the truth. Empower your people. Be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- What is the first step of discipleship?
- Have you counted the cost and surrendered everything to Christ?
- Are you prepared to cast the vision to spread God’s glory into the whole world?
- Have you achieved complete freedom from sin?
- Are you prepared to mentor a disciple to complete freedom from sin?
- How often should you repeat the spiritual inventory?
- Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, pray Luke 11:13 and ask a Spirit-filled brother to lay hands on you and pray for you until you are baptized in the Holy Spirit.
- Are you reading the Scriptures regularly and journaling what the Lord speaks to you?
- Are you engaged in the mission of making disciples?
- Who has your allegiance and affection, God or Satan?
Answers to Review Questions
2.1 God’s Glory
- To glorify God.
- He caused humans to sin.
- To restore God’s Glory, by destroying the devils works.
- Because we still sin.
2.2 The Kingdom
- The Kingdom of God.
- The Kingdom of God.
- The Gospel of the Kingdom of God and Jesus.
- The Kingdom of God and Jesus.
- They engage with their minds not their spirits.
- A radically transformed life.
2.3 Catching The Vision
- Get beyond traditions, denominational persuasions, how to fellowship, and surrender everything for the Pearl of Great Worth.
- To reap the end-time harvest.
- The unrepentant churched.
- For purpose and adventure.
2.5 The Mission
- Making disciples.
- All nations.
- A baptized, obedient follower of Christ.
- To obey all that Jesus commanded.
- All disciples.
2.6 Divine Math: Multiplication
- One: A large front line force. Two: The mission must be self-propagating regardless of cultural context, available resources, or giftedness.
- The lack of laborers.
- Programs, events, structures, and a few formally trained people.
2.7 Entrance into the Kingdom
- So the reader can know they have eternal life.
- The one who practices righteousness.
- They are cut off and thrown into the fire.
- Bear much fruit.
- Obey His commands.
- They are cut off and thrown into the fire.
- The one who does the will of the Father.
- The one who hears His words and acts on them.
- They experience a great fall!
2.8 The Big Picture
- To help ministry leaders establish good practices to launch a disciple-making movement and provide materials they can use with others.
- Catch the vision
- Conviction of sin
- Surrender to God
- Commit to the mission
- Commune with God
- Engage on the mission
- Cast the vision
3. To spread God’s glory over all the Earth.
4. To make disciples.
5. A baptized, obedient follower of Jesus Christ.
6. The letter of 1 John (see verse 5:13)
2.9 The Path to Freedom
- Sin NO MORE!
- This question does not have a right or wrong answer. It depends on her repentance.
- Previous sins.
- It is impossible to renew them again to repentance.
- It is better to have never known Him.
- Because you will incur a harsher judgment if you have known Him and reject Him by continuing to willfully sin.
- We must repent and bear fruit.
2.10 Freedom From Sin’s Power
- Sanctification or holiness.
- Eternal life.
2.11 Freedom We Can Experience
- God and Satan.
- Satan to God.
- Recurrent sins, past strongholds, and areas of victimization.
- Because Satan can’t read minds.
- Because some sins and strongholds re-emerge and take time to tear down.
- Moment by moment.
2.12 We Still Sin, Right?
- The one we obey
- Temptation, foothold, stronghold
- No. Temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to death.
- Walking in a state of repentance, confessing our sins and being cleansed by the blood of Christ.
- No. It takes the church.
- Read 2 Samuel Chapters 11 and 12. He gave in and sinned.
- He sinned more.
- Nathan the prophet
2.13 Communing with God
- To point us back to God.
- Glorify God through our restored allegiance, resulting in a radically transformed life.
- The Holy Spirit.
- Jesus’s words.
- He spoke exactly what the Father told Him to say.
- What Jesus said!
- To encourage disciples to become “doers” of the Word?
- To speak to and hear from God, for all of the saints, and to find disciples.
- Their first disciple.
- The Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit and fire.
- Greater works.
- Helper or Comforter (Holy Spirit).
- They would receive power from on high.
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- In Jesus’ name, they will cast out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up serpents, be unharmed by poison, and heal the sick!
- They would be His witnesses in the whole earth.
- Paul laid his hands on them.
- Ask, seek, and knock.
2.15 Seeking, Finding, and Qualifying New Disciples
- Fasting and praying.
- Ministering to your community.
- The “man of peace.”
- Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16), woman at the well (John 4), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16).
- Two or three weeks.
- Because the sooner they engage on the mission, the more likely the vision (living for God’s glory) and healthy spiritual DNA (commitment and obedience to Christ) will make it to the next generation.
- Because it must be convenient to commit quality time to them or the process will turn into a series of meetings rather than an organic process.
- Because those unwilling to grow will waste your time and they will not carry healthy spiritual DNA to the next generation.
- They must commit to the vision (glorifying God) and the mission (making disciples = obedient followers of Christ), and surrendering to God unconditionally (signing the “blank piece of paper”.
- Give them weekly assignments.
- Because to establish healthy spiritual DNA, too much unlearning is necessary with the churched.
- One at first, up to a maximum of about 10. Jesus himself only had 12.
2.16 Discipleship Tips and Tools
- A few hours per week.
- Because Kingdom Christianity is very different from institutional church Christianity and your disciple will quickly settle for the easier of the two.
- Centrality of God’s glory, total obedience, being a “doer” and not just a “hearer,” engaging on the mission immediately, everyone a soldier, wartime mindset, listening to God, holy living, Christianity as a way of life, and complete freedom from sin.
- By being supported behind the scenes by their mentor. Therefore, they learn as they do.
- Compassion ministries, evangelism, and community service.
- Model, Assist, Watch, and Let go.
- Because under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the disciples may or may not attend their church, may fellowship in homes, or may form a Kingdom-Christianity sub-culture within the church.
2.17 & 2.18 Summary & Marching Orders
1. Pray and fast for a disciple. 6. Until Satan’s hold is totally broken.
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