The Jewish people have survived for thousands of years because discipleship has been an integral part of their lifestyle. We read of its importance in the “The Shema.” “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:4-9 NLV)
In the Torah, we are instructed to talk about loving God over and over again with our families. We are also told to talk about God’s commandments both in and outside the home. We are instructed to let everyone see our love for God, and our commitment to His Word and ways.
As Messianic believers, Yeshua gave us all another commandment, found in Matthew 28:18-20. “Yeshua came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So, not only are we to love God with everything we’ve got, we’re also to help others do the same. That’s what making disciples is all about. And why is discipleship important? Without it we miss out on the abundance, satisfaction and joy of God’s design for us. Our greatest joy comes from being in God’s wondrous Presence. “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) When did Yeshua promise to be with us? When we are making disciples.
Without discipleship we are in danger of getting caught up in the monotonous routine of religion that produces no fruit. We’ll waste our lives like that. If we don’t disciple, the cost for the lost in this world will be great. The people in our communities, in our cities, and people groups around the world will go around without the Gospel, because we’re content not making disciples of all the nations. In our casual approach to our faith in the Messiah, without discipleship we’ll leave people stranded on a road that leads them right to hell.
Many erroneously believe it’s the congregational leader’s job to disciple. No. The leader’s “…responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the Messianic Community, the body of Messiah.” (Ephesians 4:12) What is the work that builds up the Messianic Community? It’s discipleship.
When we truly love God, it is reflected in the choices that we make in our lives. We make choices based on what pleases God, as found in His Word. We turn from choices that just please ourselves, or others.
Discipleship is God’s desire and plan for each of us. We each need to be in discipleship relationships, both where we are receiving, and giving.
In Southern Israel there’s a large body of water called the Dead Sea. It’s called that because nothing lives in it. Nothing grows there. There are no sea weeds or plants, no fish either. The Jordan river and some small canals drain into it. But, unlike other seas or lakes, no river originates from the Dead Sea. Because of this, the water has become salty and the high concentration of salt makes plant or animal life impossible.
If we look at our spiritual lives using the analogy of the Dead Sea, if nothing is flowing out of us in discipleship relationships, nothing will grow in us either. We will be dead spiritually, and our lives will bear no fruit. God’s true disciples bear much fruit.
“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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:5-8)
Going back to “The Shema,” discipleship involves talking about what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength. It involves helping people learn how to apply God’s commandments to their lives, and live in peace with their God, and Creator. It requires being in non-superficial relationships with each other and not shying away from deep, meaningful and sometimes challenging conversations that test our self imposed methods of loving God, and loving each other.
In this technological age of television/movies, the internet, Facebook, Pintrest, Instagram and a host of other entertainment outlets, we are all being discipled by something, whether we like it or not. Discipleship can be organic, but it will be most fruitful when it’s done with intentionality. Mission Discipleship is a resource that will help you be and make disciples right from the comfort of your own home.