Three-dimensional discipleship

Written by Phil Wilthew
Friday, 06 September 2013

Up Out In

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 4:19-20

A lifetime of learning

As Peter and Andrew put down their nets to follow Jesus, little did they know what a challenging, exhilarating and transformational new life they were beginning. Being a disciple of Jesus is an awesome privilege. The word disciple in the Bible literally means 'learner', and in this moment they were signing up to learn how to live like Jesus, which is God's design for each of us. The moment that you and I started to follow Him, we were enlisting to become learners – disciples of Jesus Christ.

I often imagine it like this: God the Father is the potter, we are the clay and Jesus is the model. The Father is fashioning and changing us to look like Jesus in attitudes, motives, desires, gifts and knowledge. The very second Peter and Andrew stepped out of that boat, the Father began to shape them to look like Jesus – just as He does with every one of us who follow Him!

Three dimensions of discipleship

As disciples of Jesus, our learning takes place in three dimensions or areas: up, in and out.

UP: Connection to God

Our first calling is to know the Father as Jesus does. Disciples are those who actively grow in their friendship with God through prayer, worship, the prophetic and the Bible.

I believe there was something so utterly captivating, awesome and otherworldly about Jesus that these fishermen could not help but leave everything in order to have him. They were willing to trade all the security, all the comfort, all the familiarity, all the family expectations just so they could be with this Jesus. Mike Breen says:

"Discipleship is not about information, but intimacy. Discipleship is about Jesus and walking with him, learning to imitate his life."

IN: Develop our Character

Disciples are those who are growing on the inside! Jesus comes to shape our ideas and our identity. Through this, He is also shaping our behaviour and attitudes.

Peter and Andrew would discover a great number of surprises as they followed Jesus and caught His perspective on truth, priorities and meaning. Just as with the early disciples, Jesus has not come in order to be a subtle influence on the edge of our lives or one among many voices. He has come to take up management of our hearts, minds and emotions. Disciples partner with Jesus in learning how to think and live like He does.

OUT: Fulfil our Calling

Disciples have an outward mission for their lives and a sense of purpose in the world. Jesus helps us discover the gifts He has given us, teaches us how to bring the influence of His kingdom in the world and enables us to make more disciples for Him!

As Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, He promises to fashion them into world changers – "I will teach you how to fish for people!" Jesus is equally committed today to catching us up on His amazing mission to win disciples from every tribe, nation and tongue. Each one of us has a part to play in God's mission, whether it is at the school gate, in the lecture hall, at our work desks or in our communities and amongst our friends.

"The cross [must] be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church, I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek. . . and at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about. And that is where Christ's men ought to be, and what church people ought to be about."

George MacLeod

Your response

How is your up, your in and your out? Where do you need to grow this year as a disciple of Jesus?

A great question for each of us to ask is this: "What is God saying to me, and what am I going to do about it?" If you know Jesus, you cannot help but be drawn to do what He loves to do – change lives and show off His goodness!

"The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as 'Christians' will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence."

Dallas Willard, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship

Go into all the world and make disciples!

The Disciple


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