Friday, July 17, 2015

What does it mean to be a disciple?

The vision of our church is to see disciples made and churches planted and I have recently been asking what it means to be a disciple. One of the places I turned to was the '21 Marks of a Disciple' outlined in David Watson's classic called 'Discipleship' if only for a audit on my own growth and discipleship. I also found these questions helpful when considering how we are doing as a local church on responding the command to 'go and make disciples':

'What are we aiming at, when we talk about making disciples? Let me mention a number of characteristics that I have observed over the years. I am not claiming that this list is complete, or that every disciple will display the full range of qualities; but at least we should know what we are hoping and praying to achieve. Let me put it in the form of questions that we need to ask; and although these questions are masculine in form, they refer to either male or female.

1.        Is he willing to serve? This was a repeated lesson that Jesus had to teach his status-seeking disciples, especially when he humbled them dramatically by washing their feet. (John 13; cf. Mark 10:35-45)

2.        Is he learning to listen? When Simon Peter was full of bright ideas on the Mount of Transfiguration, God told him to 'listen' to his Son. (Luke 9:35) When Martha was impatiently bustling around preparing a meal whilst Jesus was talking, she was
gently rebuked for not being like Mary who was sitting quietly listening to the Master. (Luke 10:41f)

3.        Is he willing to learn? When Jesus spoke about his coming sufferings and death, Peter blurted out, 'God forbid. Lord! This shall never happen to you.' The stinging reply was something that Peter never forgot. (Matthew 16:22f)

4.   Is he willing to be corrected? How well does he receive honest criticism, when others speak the truth in love? (Matthew 18:15)

5.     How well does he submit to those who are over him? (1Thess. 5:12f; Hebrews 13:17) Is he willing to do this, even when he does not understand all the reasons why, or when he does not naturally enjoy what he is being asked to do?

6.        Can he share his life with others, in open and honest fellowship? (1 John 1)

7.        Is he learning humility? Can he rejoice with those who rejoice, and be genuinely glad when others are blessed in some way or other? (Phil. 2:3f)

8.        Is he learning to examine his own life before criticising others? (Matthew 7:1-5)

9.        Does he know his weaknesses? Is he learning to overcome them through the grace of God? (2 Cor. 12:9)

10. Is he a perfectionist? This will lead him into either self-righteousness, self-condemnation, self-pity, or a judgmental spirit. 'We all make many mistakes' (James 3:2; cf.  1 John 1:8-10). Is he learning to accept himself, as God accepts him in
Christ - just as he is?

11. Is he able to forgive? (Matthew 18:21f)

12. Has he stickability? Or does he give up easily? How does he handle discouragements? (Ephesians 6:10ff; cf. 2 Cor. 4:7ff)

13. Is he to be trusted? (1 Cor. 4:2) Is he reliable? Will he get on with a task without constant nagging? Is he willing to trust others, even when they have disappointed him and let him down?

14. Does he mind his own affairs? Or is he always wanting to pry into the lives of others, becoming a busybody or even a gossip? (John 21:2If; 1 Tim. 5:13)

15. Does he do little things well? (Colossians 3:17)

16. How does he use his leisure? Does he see that all his time is a gift of God to be used wisely? (Ephesians 5:15-17)

17. Does he aim first and foremost to please God? Or does he seek the praise of others, or gratify his own desires? (John 12:43; 2 Cor. 5:9)

18. Is he quick to obey when God speaks to him? When fisherman Peter obeyed instantly the instructions of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, however foolish those instructions may have seemed to him, there were astonishing results (Luke 5:4-9)
This proved a vital lesson (which had to be learned more than once!) in the years ahead.

19. Has he faith in God, especially when there may be no outward signs to encourage his faith? (Luke 18:1-8; Mark ll:12ff)

20. Where is his security? Is he willing to trust ultimately in the love and faithfulness of God, or does he look for more temporal and material securities first and foremost? (Matthew 6:19-34) Is he willing to move as the Spirit leads him on, to make
adjustments and changes, or does he resist change?

21.Has he a clear understanding of God's priorities for his life? (Acts 6:2-4)

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