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Without Jesus Christ there is no discipleship.  This post will be referencing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Geffrey B. Kelly, and John D. Godsey, Discipleship; Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple making is…: how to live the great commission with passion and confidence; and the Bible.  This post will be defining discipleship, covering how obedience reflects discipleship, the areas in our lives where we must submit to the Lord and expand upon the three stages of discipleship.  

What Discipleship is and is not

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, and during the days of the early church, the term that was used most frequently to designate one of Jesus’ followers was “disciple” (mathetes [maqhthv”], 262 times). Hence, discipleship is a central theological theme of the Gospels and Acts .  After defining the word “discipleship” you see the very root of its definition is the followers of Jesus Christ.  One has to be actively following Jesus to call themselves a disciple as discribed by the following scripture, “As he was walking along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collector’s desk. Jesus told him, “Follow me!” So Levi got up and followed him”(Mark 2:14,ISV).

In this piece of scripture one can clearly see that discipleship is a calling.  One cannot ideally sit and wait, calling themselves a disciple of Jesus Christ.  “The disciple’s answer is not a spoken confession of faith in Jesus. Instead, it is the obedient deed. ” From the information I just provided, you can clearly see that discipleship is not a confession of faith.  Some people may get confused and blur the lines between salvation and discipleship.  When you find salvation in Jesus Christ you are born again as a new creation, however, this is not discipleship.  The very essence of discipleship is carrying your cross and fully submitting yourself to Jesus Christ and all his commandments.

How Obedience and Faith Reflects Discipleship

To first understand how obedience reflects discipleship, one must understand the relationship between faith and obedience.  Obedience must be separate from faith.  Faith is only faith in deeds of obedience.   As you see, one can only grow in faith by being obedient to Jesus Christ’s teachings.  It is not until you fight though your personal legalisms and chose to follow Jesus that you can truly be obedient to His will.  “Only the believers obey and only the obedient believe.”  After reading this statement, the scope of this report began to see the bigger picture of how obedience reflects discipleship.  It has already been established that “a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ.”  That is why obedience reflects discipleship.  Obedience is a basic building block to discipleship along with faith.  Without being obedient to God’s word, you will never have the opportunity to have your obedience tested, in turn grows your faith.  Without that faith, you lose the will to want to continue to follow Jesus and thus never truly become his disciple nor love him.  So faith and obedience are the driving force to discipleship!  In addition, the disciples love for Christ also leads to obedience to his will.  It was written by John, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6, ISV). 

Areas in our Life to Submit to Christ

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ you must fully submit yourself to him. There is not one area in your life that you should not submit to Christ.  The following scripture gives an example of discipleship being called by Jesus, “Keep on being obedient to the word, and not merely being hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone hears the word but is not obedient to it, he is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and studies himself carefully, and then goes off and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the one who looks at the perfect law of freedom and remains committed to it—thereby demonstrating that he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of what that law requires—will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks that he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but instead deceives himself, his religion is worthless” (James 1:22-26, ISV).

In James 1:22-26, it is taught that if we are not obedient to the word, the audiences religion is worthless.  If the audience’s religion is worthless, then how can they glorify Christ in everything they do and live our lives by example?  Disciples are the doers of Jesus’ teachings.  Disciples are his ambassadors on earth while they are alive.  By understanding this, there is no area in the reader’s lives where you should not apply Jesus’ teaching in.  You are to submit yourself to him as you submit yourself to God, your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, and all of those who you can influence in your life.  Dave Early referenced Matthew 28:19-20.  In this piece of scripture, Jesus is teaching about the Great Commission in which describes submitting to him.

Dave Early wrote “ Jesus commanded all of His disciples to teach everyone in the world to obey all of His commands. Therefore, we cannot say that we are fulfilling the Great Commission until we are teaching our disciples to “observe everything Jesus commanded.” The failure to teach it all and obey it all is the Great Omission in the Great Commission.”   As you read,  to be a disciple of Jesus, you must observe everything that Jesus commanded of us all.

The Three Stages of Discipleship

The three main stages of discipleship are Declaration (Investigation Leading to Repentance and Faith in Jesus), Development (Immersion, Abandonment, and Apprenticeship into Ministry), and Deployment (Intentional Global Commissioning). This report will be going further in depth on each of these stages.  This report will to not only explain them, but to show others how they can positively influence their lives by applying them.

Stage One: Declaration

The first stage asks you the simple question “Will you believe in Jesus?” This is an important question that we must all ask ourselves.  The Gospels reveal that discipleship is a matter of taking the next step. It is a progressive relationship based on increasing levels of faith, obedience, and commitment.   At this point of your walk you must make that declaration that you want to follow Christ.  Most people don’t wake up one day and decide to be Christian without knowing anything about Jesus.

At this stage of your investigation it is all about Jesus Christ.  Most start to ask themselves if you can trust the Jesus is the messiah.  You start to looking into the scriptures to research Jesus’ teachings and all the miracles that He has performed during his ministry.  The reader needs to rationalize themselves if they can trust Jesus with their heart and soul.  As time passes your curiosity should lead to conviction, then that conviction tends to lead to commitment to Jesus and conversion. This is the most important stage in my opinion because you are deciding to either follow Jesus and have faith in Him or not to.  Without that foundation of faith; the readers walk with Christ will not allow themselves to submit to what He teaches us.  This is a declaration over your life and the beginning of your stand against the influences of the world!  This report also states that this is the first stage of the disciples obedience to Jesus since they have accepted him into your life.

Stage Two: Development

At this stage, they are already a follower of Jesus Christ. Now they are to “build a deeper relationship with Jesus.”   The way the new disciple builds that relationship is through hard work in studying His word and on our knees in prayer.  The disciple must dive themselves into scripture and then fellowship with other disciples.  This builds a sense of community among disciples.  In this scripture, the author describes community, “Let us continue to hold firmly to the hope that we confess without wavering, for the one who made the promise is faithful. And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer” (Hebrews 10:23-25, ISV).

In this stage, disciples start to build each other up.  In this stage the disciple starts to get their first taste of ministry.  They will start to want to speak to others about Jesus and all the things he has done in their life.  The more the disciple learns about Jesus the more they start to submit to him and his teachings.  

Stage Three: Deployment

In this last stage the disciple starts to deploy their ministry outwards towards the community.  It was written that disciples should be “a missionary everyday.”   Since Jesus was the best example for a missionary, the disciple should reflect His ministry to the best of their ability.  This is the basis of discipleship.  Once the disciple fully submit themselves to Jesus and are obedient to his teachings, their life begins to fulfil its true purpose.  That purpose is to be a disciple and then make other disciples as described in this scripture, “He appointed the Twelve, whom he called apostles, to accompany him, to be sent out to preach” (Mark 3:14, ISV).

A disciples ultimate goal is to do.  To share Jesus’ teachings with all who are willing to hear it.  This does not mean that everyone is supposed to stand in a pulpit because everyone is blessed with different gifts.  But the disciples use their testimonies to show how Jesus has influenced their lives for the better and share that to everyone.  As followers of Jesus Christ, disciples are called to “move.” Being filled with the love of Jesus Christ, the disciple has no other rational choice but to share the “good news” with everyone they meet.  

In conclusion, this post can summarize that there is no discipleship without Jesus.  To be called a disciple, one must be fully submitted and obedient to Jesus’ teachings.  Discipleship is not just a classification, but a complete life style change for the better.  This post also described why the reader must submit to Jesus in all aspects of their lives.  This post also highlighted the three main stages of discipleship as taught by Dave Early.  In these stages, this report explained the practicality of each stage in the readers life and how to apply them in it.  This post is written to clarify, without Jesus Christ there can be no discipleship.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Geffrey B. Kelly, and John D. Godsey. Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN:Fortress Press, 2003.

“Disciple, Discipleship Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary.” Bible Study Tools. Accessed March 27, 2017. http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/disciple-discipleship/.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making is…: How to Live The Great Commission With Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B & H Avademic, 2013.