This is a call and a set-up to some discipleship relationships. We call them ‘triads.’
Last week we talked about what following the rabbi really looks like…we talked about the last verses of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says:
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
I never knew you…Jesus wants us to know him…not just do amazing things in his name. Even if we go to every conference, every seminar, every retreat and mission trip, every TNT, every prayer meeting, every everything…if we don’t KNOW Jesus, he will cast us away.
This is an invitation to discipleship…discipleship is the process of becoming like your rabbi. And last week, we talked a lot about what a disciple looked like and what a rabbi looked like.
Jesus was a Rabbi…a great teacher…and, like all rabbis, he had followers, learners, disciples. In Jesus’ day, disciples would leave everything behind at a very young age…their families, homes, schools, synagogues, friends, jobs…everything, to follow their rabbi around. And they wouldn’t just follow around to know what their rabbis know…although they would learn. But, they wanted to BE everything that their rabbi WAS.
And we talked about their commitment…they so much wanted to be like their rabbi that they would follow them into the bathroom. If they prayed in there after they were done going, the disciple wanted to know what that prayer was. They also, sometimes, followed them into their bedrooms so that they could learn their rabbi’s sexual technique. It sounds crazy to us today…but such was their commitment and devotion.
And today…Jesus is calling us into this discipleship relationship…where we don’t just know what Jesus knows…but we become like Jesus is. And we have to ask ourselves what our commitment and devotion to him look like.
Last week we learned that there were 5 characteristics of discipleship in Jesus’ day…and that we need to understand those 5 things so that we can better understand what discipleship might look for us today. They are:
1) Disciples decided to follow a teacher.
2) Disciples memorized their teacher’s words.
3) Disciples learned their teacher’s way of ministry.
4) Disciples imitated their teacher’s life and character.
5) Disciples, when mature, raised up their own disciples.
We talked about those middle ones extensively last week…
Disciples memorized their teacher’s words…I shared that some rabbis had the entire Torah memorized (the first 5 books of the OT) and some had the entire OT memorized. Disciples would listen to everything their rabbi said and commit it to memory. I shared the story of a Jewish teacher who said that Christians who call themselves disciples are misled…he said he felt that way because he had never met a Christian who would read through the gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John clear through once a week. He said that Christians cannot be disciples until they know their teacher’s words. And that comes from a lifelong commitment to the gospels.
That challenged me…and so, starting tomorrow, I am going to start reading through the gospels once every 2 weeks. ::abide:: is what I am calling this journey, and that comes from Jesus’ words in John 8:
John 8:31 ESV
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…
I have started a website…and each day I am going to post the readings for the day. And most days, I hope, I am going to write some thoughts down about the readings. And I want some people who will commit to joining me on this journey to join me in posting some stuff on the site…and then all of you, and people all over the world who are sharing in this journey, can go there and interact with the postings, make comments, share thoughts, and engage in dialog. I am very excited about this journey. You can find the website address on your announcement sheet.
Disciples also learned their rabbi’s way of ministry and mimicked it. We must serve people the way Jesus did…disciples also watched their rabbi’s way of life and character and imitated that as well. Remember, disciples wanted to BE like their rabbi, not just know what their rabbi knew.
What we did not talk about much last week, that I would like to focus on this week, is characteristic #5: disciples raised up their own disciples.
In Jesus’ day, when a disciple attained maturity, he would become a rabbi…and then, as a rabbi, he would accept disciples and he would pass on to them all that had been passed on to him.
Today, we don’t have our own disciples…each of us is a disciple of Christ…but, I think that we have received a directive from Jesus our rabbi to make disciples of him and that it is our job to teach them and train them and raise them up to be like Christ.
So, instead of making disciples of Brandon…I hope I am making disciples of Christ…but I have the responsibility to teach and train and prepare and grow up and all of those things.
Jesus says it this way:
Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
This is our great commission…to make disciples of Christ…and to baptize…and to teach them.
Jesus doesn’t say go and make a bunch of Christians who go to church and never cuss. He doesn’t tell us we are to make good moral people. He doesn’t tell us we are to make people who know a lot of things about him.
Jesus commands us to make disciples…and he commands us to teach them…and that is discipleship. The process of becoming like Jesus.
And it is a process…taking on the character of Christ does not happen overnight. In fact, the apostle Paul talks at length about becoming like Jesus…and do you know what his favorite metaphor is for discipleship?
Spiritual Parenting. His writings have a lot of talk about being a spiritual father, a spiritual mother…he addresses those under his care as spiritual children and infants…he talks about nursing mothers and mothers giving birth to a baby…he states that his goal is to bring people to maturity in Christ…adulthood.
And as Keri and I are learning…bringing a child to maturity takes time…a lot of time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience and much grace. And so does discipleship…
Listen to some of Paul’s words:
Colossians 1:28-29 ESV
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
This short passage has some echoes of the Great Commission, doesn’t it? We want to proclaim him and teach everyone about him…and he says that we want to present everyone “mature” in Christ. The goal of discipleship.
And he says that he toils and struggles with all of his energy to do this…to bring everyone to maturity in Christ.
And that is our toil and struggle and goal here…I want what we do here in the community of CCH to be able bringing people to maturity in Christ…I am more and more convinced that we, meaning Christians, have done a fine job of bringing people to church and teaching them everything that they need to know. We have taught them what to believe…but we have not taught them how to live. We have made it OK to do a lot of great stuff for Jesus…but we have not taught them how to KNOW him.
But that is going to change here…I want to see authentic, real, give up everything you have, carry your cross, live upside-down, love your enemies, be like your rabbi disciples here.
I am going to cast some vision here for a second:
What I would like to see is this:
I would like to see you, students, journey on the path of discipleship with me and with each other.
There are several ways that we see discipleship in action…but one of the primary ways, if not THE primary way, is in small groups of people dedicated to journeying along the path of discipleship with each other.
Jesus did this…he gathered to himself 12 men…and, if you read the Gospels (1 every 2 weeks!) you will see that he even had a smaller group…3 of the 12 became his inner circle…and he led them on the journey of discipleship.
I would like to see those of you who are committed to discipleship join together in groups of 3…we will call them triads. And in these triads, you will embark on the path to growing up in Christ and attaining maturity…discipleship.
We are not going to have sign-ups for these groups…because I want them to form out of your commitment to discipleship. I am praying that some of you will rise up…and ask the Lord to lead you to two others…and that a triad will form and the three of you will covenant to growth in Christ.
I think that these triads are an element in the environment for growth…if you have ever kept a garden, you know that you have to create an environment in which your vegetables and flowers and stuff can grow. You need to till the soil and you need to condition it. You need to have sunlight. And warmth. And water. And fertilizer. And you need to weed and prune your plants. And when the conditions are right…when the environment is right…great growth can occur.
The same is true for the community of CCH…we are always working to create an environment where growth can occur. And we have to have the elements of the environment ready.
I am going to share some elements to a healthy discipleship environment with you tonight…if you will include these elements in your triads, you will have an environment for amazing growth.
· Be together.
We have talked about this a bit already, but there is a difference between doing and being.
It’s interesting to me, that when Jesus picked his 12 men…this is what the Scriptures say:
Mark 3:14 ESV
14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him…
The disciples got to be with Jesus. They got to live life with him. They got to share meals and joys and struggles and everything that comes in this life. They didn’t just get together to DO spiritual things…they were together often. They simply lived life together.
When I first became a Christian…and started my journey of discipleship…my campus minister invited me to simply do life with him. He would invite me over to his house to fish and work on his farm. I got to eat meals with his family and see how a Christian father and household functioned. I got to see how he treated his wife. I remember going to a wedding of some of the college students with him…and we traveled a long ways to get there. And we weren’t gathering for the purpose only of Bible study or praying or talking about Jesus stuff…we just lived life together for a time. And those things flowed out of that.
I think triads will need to be intentional about getting together…for the purpose of hard spiritual work. But, I think triads will eventually be a place where the members get together…maybe just to hang out…maybe when someone is struggling…maybe when someone has a great joy…there is an element of intentionality…but there will also be an element of the flow of life.
Triads should be together often…not everyday, not all the time…but they should live their lives together. They will experience all the ups and downs of life…and living through those together in community, where there is encouragement and challenge and trust and faithfulness will sharpen you as you grow in Christ.
As we have discussed, discipleship takes time. We are getting started with these triads later in the school year, but I think the triads need to commit to getting together starting now and going until the end of the school year.
Jesus met with his 12 for 3 ½ years. Discipleship is about relationships…relationship to Christ and relationship to each other. And relationships take time…I would like to see the triads that may start commit the rest of the year, from now until May, to each other. And next year, it will be even longer…from August until May.
Some triads may naturally continue next year…and that’s OK. But, as we will talk about in a minute, there is a place where the triad will move outside of itself.
Discipleship takes time…and time is an essential element in the environment of growth. You cannot hurry growth…I cannot make my 4 year old act like a 24 year old…that takes time.
In this group, you are going to be traveling together with two other people on the path to maturity. Sometimes that path is ugly…sometimes we go through terrible seasons…sometimes we doubt and sin and have struggles.
You need to be able to trust those in your group. You are laying yourself down on the line for the cause of Christ with them…you need to know that you can trust them with you.
When Keri and I got married…we had to think through the questions, “Can I trust me with her? Can I trust me with him?” Because we are going into this for real…and so we have to know the other person is trustworthy.
These groups are going to be vulnerable…open…honest…trust has to be present. Pray that God would lead you to such a person whose character will shape yours. Pray for someone who has a good reputation for confidentiality. Pray God would bring you to these people.
Ultimately, these relationships will be one of the tools that God uses to shape you. It requires trust to say, “God, I’m not afraid of you using [person’s name] to make changes in my life.”
Proverbs 27:17 ESV
17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
Christ’s primary character trait was humility…and since we are journeying to be like him…we must be humble as well.
I Peter 5:5 ESV
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
One of the reasons why the triads COULD fail…is because people will not start with humility. Being humble before God means you understand His goodness and you understand your sin. You understand that without Christ, you have no hope.
And being humble before each other means you confess your sins…you ask for help…you realize you don’t have it all together…and that you need each other as you grow in Christ.
Peter is quite clear in his passage…we have to clothe ourselves in humility with one another…because if we are proud, we are opposed by God. But…if we are humble, with God and with each other, grace ensues.
In our triads, we are going to be dealing with real life. And real life has warts. And these triads need to extend grace to each other.
God has shown us great grace…and now we extend that to others. Grace creates acceptance within the group…a group member can come and confess her sins without the fear of judgment. And if she doesn’t find judgment, she finds healing.
Sin will not be ignored in the group…it will be talked about and dealt with. But, with the element of grace, we can handle sin in a positive and constructive way, leading people to change…not to shame.
With the grace…and with the humility…comes transparency. There is no place in discipleship to hide our sins, either from God or from each other.
There are 2 great passages on confession of sins.
First, confessing them to God:
I John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We must confess our sins to each other…
James 5:16 ESV
…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
It’s interesting…in confessing our sins to God, there is forgiveness.
BUT…in confessing our sins to one another, there is healing.
Triads will confess their sins to each other…their struggles…their prayer requests…they will take great risks with each other. But, with all of those things…intimacy with each other and with God deepens.
There will be no fakeness in these groups…if a questions is posed, and nobody knows the answer, the correct answer is, “I don’t know the answer…but let’s find it.” No BS or lying or pretending to know when you don’t.
A transparent group will be see-through with each other.
A natural extension of the previous element…there has to be an element of accountability within the group. While we confess our sins, and there is grace, there is also an encouragement to grow…and the members of the group will hold each other accountable to those things.
Accountability motivates life change. If your triad is talking about loving your enemies…they are going to, or should, hold you accountable to actually loving your enemies. They will ask you hard questions…and demand honesty. And if you stumble, they will offer grace, but also a word of encouragement and accountability to carry you through change.
Accountability can be our best friend…even if we don’t want that friend around. Bill Hull, an author, compared it to a chaperone. It’s in the room with us, but tucked away discreetly in the corner. We submit to accountability out of a passion to please God…and that is what accountability is: submission. Submitting to God ultimately, but submitting to each other in order to keep honest. Those people in our groups should have our permission to ask us any question and keep us honest about life.
These last things we have talked about build upon each other…you can’t have accountability if you don’t have transparency. And you can’t have transparency if you don’t have grace. And you can’t have grace if you don’t have humility. And you can’t have humility if you don’t have trust.
I am not a big curriculum guy. But, some people function better with structure.
If any of these groups start, I will help you develop structure. For some groups, there is enough structure if they just get together, share struggles, prayer requests, and pray…and then they have a specific chapter or section of chapters they have read in the past week and they share questions/ideas/thoughts from those passages. That’s enough structure for them…
Some need more…maybe a workbook to go through together.
Either way, I want to help with that…but it’s wise to have some structure to your group.
This is the one we often forget about when we are talking about discipleship…the earliest disciples, when they had reached maturity, went out and found more disciples and then reproduced everything they had gone through.
This should happen in Christian discipleship too. Disciples should be making disciples who make more disciples.
Look at Paul and Timothy:
II Timothy 2:2 ESV
“…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
You may not see it, but this is discipleship…and reproduction…in action.
And there are 4 generations represented here:
1) Paul…who told things to:
2) Timothy…who should entrust things to:
3) Faithful men…who will be able to teach:
One of the goals of the triad is to equip each member of the group to be able to leave their triad…and begin another triad with 2 new people. And then reproducing…
And that may sound kind of boring…doing the same thing you just did with a new group…but it isn’t…
We never fully arrive. We never get all the answers. Each group will be its own organism…so every time you enter into a triad, you are in for a new experience.
But one of the goals of the group is to prepare everyone to be able to part ways…and begin 3 new triads…and then do it again…and again…
There is a principle in finance called compound interest…it’s where you earn a little bit of interest on some money. And then, that money plus its interest earns more interest. And then it all earns interest again. At the end of several years, you have a fortune…because the interest has compounded on itself.
The same principle (not rule) could be in place here when we talk about reproducing discipleship…author Greg Ogden gives us an example:
If a preacher goes out and wins one person to Christ every day of the year. At the end of the first year, he has won 365 people to Christ.
At the same time, someone enters into a discipleship relationship that meets for that same year. At the end, two disciples have been made.
At the end of 2 years…the preacher has won 730 people to Christ. And the discipler guy, his first group broke up and each of them took on another person…so now they have 2 groups of 2 with a total of 4 disciples…compared to the 730, that’s not very many.
But this process of reproduction keeps going and going…and the preachers keeps winning one person to Christ everyday of the year.
At the end of year 3, preacher has won 1095 people. Discipler has 8.
Year 4—1460 to 16.
Year 5—1825 to 32.
Year 10—3650 to 1024.
Year 15—5475 to 32,768.
The power of reproduction. Of course, this doesn’t happen as a law…but it does show how Jesus’ way was better…invest in a few who then invest in a few who then invest in a few more…
Our triads will reproduce…those of you who enter into one this year, will…by God’s grace…all enter into a new one with 2 new people next year. And you will teach them to do the same thing.
Commitment is an essential ingredient in the environment of the triads. We have already talked about the commitment to the rabbi that the early disciples showed…we see it in Peter when he steps out of the boat and walks on the water towards Christ. That’s a crazy thing to do…but he wanted to be like his rabbi…so he did it. That’s commitment.
Disciples need to commit to several things:
o To Jesus, the Rabbi. Enough said.
o To God’s word. It’s the basis…
§ II Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
§ 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent…
o To each other.
§ To be there…to be at the meetings…to be prepared and to have done the work needed…to commit to all the things we have discussed already: accountability, transparency, grace, humility…and to reproduction.
Does this sound like a lot? Does this sound like a big commitment?
Yes, it is. Am I sorry to ask you to commit to this? No way. I am calling you to enter into a community relationship with two other people for the purpose of you growing into maturity in Christ. Do you think I am sorry about that?
Will you have to sacrifice things to make this work? Most likely. Many of you are so busy…too busy. And you may be thinking, “I am too busy to commit to this triad discipleship thing.”
If you are OK with that…then fine…you are not ready to be a disciple.
But, if you feel the deep of your heart calling out to the deep of God’s heart…then you are ready. But if you are still thinking you are too busy for it…then I am going to call you to give something up.
Get out of that other organization. Don’t rush that sorority or fraternity. If you are going to 5 different Bible studies every week with 3 different campus ministries, then quit one or two or four of them. If you are wasting 20 hours a week watching TV or playing PlayStation, then get rid of your TV and system.
It’s a huge commitment…and it calls for sacrifice…Jesus said it this way:
Luke 9:23 ESV
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 14:25-33 ESV
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
I am calling you to count the cost…but I am encouraging you to make the sacrifice that is required to grow into maturity in Christ…to be his disciple…to be like Him.
Here is what I want.
I want you to pray…and ask God to reveal to you what is holding you back from authentic discipleship.
And if you are willing to make the sacrifice and commitment, then I want you to pray that God would lay 2 other people on your heart…and then invite them to join you in a triad.
And then tell me about it…I want to know about the triads, so that I can pray and I can help. I will help get you started and encourage you along the way. I will get you whatever you need.
And then go…and grow…