Discipleship: The Process

Discipleship: The Process

Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio.  This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt.  You can hear the whole sermon, Discipleship: The Processby clicking here.

A Season of Unparalleled Growth is Available to You!

We have to shed old mindsets in order to prepare for new growth.  Insects have to get rid of their old exoskeletons before they grow – and you have to shed old mindsets before you grow.  God is so gracious that He will even send us messengers ahead of time to indicate our need to change our mind – to repent.  God sent John the Baptist for this reason; his ministry was in fact a ministry of repentance.  In fact, in Luke 7:30, we learn that the “Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him (John).”  Some people miss the purposes that God has for them because they don’t change their mind and are therefore unable to grow into what God has for them to grow into.

Speaking of growth, God has a season of growth for you that is unparalleled by any growth you have experienced in Him before.  You have an opportunity for growth, right now, that is greater than any growth that you have ever experienced in the Lord.  Do not write that statement off as some sort of “nicety” or “platitude.”  By the end of this calendar year, you could look back on your year and say “Oh my gosh, that was incredible what the Lord developed in me!  That was incredible what I was able to experience in ministry and transformation!  I never could have imagined all that God wanted to do!”

God is always “on.”  His blessings are always “on!”  His Word is always available to us for this reason – because He wants His blessings to always be available to us.  God is like a 24/7 radio broadcast (always broadcasting His wonderful purposes for our life), but if we’re not tuned in we don’t receive it.  Eccl. 3:1 says “For everything there is a season . . .”  Yes, every THING has its season, but GROWTH is always in season!  There are amazing growth opportunities available for you!

Proverbs 8:1 says “does not wisdom cry out?”  When God has something for you to find in Him, He hides that wisdom about as well as a 2-year-old playing hide-and-seek!  He wants to be found by you!  God has amazing things in store for you and He is just barely hiding them from you – because He wants you to find them (see Prov. 25:2), but they are hid to be found!  Unfortunately, God is having to “store up sound wisdom for the upright” (Prov. 2:7) because we are not receiving it!  Picture God having to build new storage facilities in Heaven for all the yet-to-be accessed wisdom and plans He has for His children!

If you are not ecstatic about the next 4 or 5 months – and what God wants to do in your life – you are not thinking about those months like He is.  2 Cor. 3:18 promises that if we behold the glory of the Lord we will go from glory to glory.  You might believe that in your head, but you don’t believe it in your heart if you are not ecstatic about the rest of this calendar year!  He has such a season of growth for you . . . and it doesn’t preclude the next six months after that being even better yet!  Glory to glory to glory to glory to glory!  He has a season of growth for you!  Expect amazingly good things in this season!

There’s always more.

Growth Comes through Changing Your Mind

How will that growth occur?  All the growth that we’re talking about will occur in your life because of changed mindsets.  This a simple, but profound fact.  Remember the exoskeleton example – the insect’s growth is initiated by shedding it’s old exoskeleton.  Our growth is initiated by shedding old mindsets!  Metamorphosis comes from renewing your mind – by changing your thinking.  In fact, Romans 12:2 says “do not be conformed to this world (don’t let your life go from struggle to struggle) but (instead) be transformed (have your life change for the better all the time, have it go from glory to glory).  How do we do that?  By “renewing your mind!”  The “transformation” in Romans 12:2 is the same Greek word that gives us the word “metamorphosis” to describe the marvelous emergence of a butterfly!  Likewise, our growth, our metamorphosis, comes from changing our mind!

The process of renewing your mind, according to the Word of God, is discipleship.  Discipleship is the process of renewing your mind according to the Word of God.  The will of God for your life is tripartite: reconciliation, transformation, and duplication.  Reconiliation is COMPLETELY done when you get born again.  As a born again believer, you cannot be any more reconciled to God; there is NOTHING standing between God and you from His end!  Duplication is the ministry part of our lives – where we minister reconciliation and the transformation we’ve experienced to others.  The transformation process is the discipleship process.

So, which part of you is being transformed in the discipleship process?  Hebrews 10:14 provides us with that answer “For by one offering He (Jesus) has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  Even a brand-new believer has been perfected forever!  How?  They are perfected forever because they have the perfect Spirit of Jesus Christ living on the inside of them!  They are 1/3, wall-to-wall Holy Ghost!  At the same time, all believers – new and old, are being perfected in our souls.  That’s the transformation process!  We are not transforming the Spirit of God; Jesus doesn’t need to change!  We’re the ones that need changed!  But not at our core – we are perfect at our core – we have the Spirit of Christ at our core!  But we do need changed in our minds.  In our perspectives, in our thinking.

Some people are so afraid to admit that they need something from Jesus.  Think about Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, that cried out to Jesus as He was passing through Jericho: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  What was he crying out about?  Not being able to see!  It’s allegorical to being spiritually blind.  The crowd rebuked him.  They told him to be quiet!  To stop calling out to the Lord!  We need to call out to the Lord – to call out to His Word –  to transform our thinking so that we are not blind to the things of God!

There is tremendous growth available.  That growth is coming through changed mindsets and the process of changing our mindsets according to His Word is discipleship.  For some of us, the word “discipleship” carries with it a number of very specific connotations of certain programs or protocols such as “accountability partners” or “memory verse cards,” etc.  Those are not necessarily good or bad, but they are a little bit more than what is actually in the Word.  In Jn. 8:31-32 we see how Jesus defines discipleship: in Jn 8:31-32: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”  

So, Jesus is identifying the three components in His definition of discipleship:

    • abiding in His Word
    • coming to know the truth,
    • and experiencing freedom through that truth you know (i.e., experiencing tremendous blessings in and through your life)!

We abide in His Word, which causes us to come to know the truth, and then the truth that we know sets us free.  The stuff of discipleship is nothing more, nothing less.

Discipleship is a Process

We need to embrace discipleship as a process.  It’s a process of changing our mind according to the Word of God.  A humble way to describe the discipleship process to someone would be: “its a sequence of me changing my mind again and again and again to think more like God thinks.”  We have an endless number of opportunities to change our minds to think more like Christ!  You can’t read a page in the Bible and not have at least 50 little opportunities to change your mind!  That’s how the growth happens – by changing our minds.

When we are confronted with a need to change our thinking – a need to grow – we tend to respond to that need for growth in one of two ways depending on the circumstance:

    • One views the need for growth as an Opportunity
    • The other views the need for growth as an Annoyance
    • The first view says “it was really good to get to learn that!” when they need to change their mind about something they were wrong about.
    • The other view says “oh my gosh, I can’t believe I didn’t already know that!”
    • The first view lives in the future; they are thinking about the future benefit of their new-found knowledge and how helpful it will be!
    • The other lives in the past; they are remembering and thinking of all the times they were not right for having acted as such!

This is a big deal.  Paul actually instructed the Philippians about this:  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15 ) Paul was speaking about still being in the discipleship process himself.  He knew he had the perfect Spirit of Christ on the inside of him, but he knew he was still renewing his mind day by day.

The person who grows dynamically sees their mindset as a constantly growing thing.  A constantly improving thing.  A constantly refining thing.  When they had the wrong idea about something they say “I am changing my mind about that.”  The person who wants to grow but finds it hard to grow sees their mindset as part of who they are – part of their identity.  When they had the wrong idea about something they say “I can’t believe I was wrong.”  Do you see the difference?  The growth-oriented thought process creates an action verb “I am changing.” The other thought process creates an identity that says “I was wrong.”

If someone’s mindset or belief set is like an identity to them, changing our mind is like personality suicide!  We think, “I can’t change how I’m thinking or everyone will know I am a fraud.”  But if our mindset or belief set is a constantly improving thing, changing our mind is like re-arranging the furniture in our family room!  We’re thinking “Wow! This new room arrangement will be really great and so much nicer to live in!”  Look at what a difference this causes about being able to change your mind!  Remember, there is a season of growth God is planning for you and that growth is going to come through being able to change your mind!  One of these mindsets makes the process of discipleship a joy and delight – the other a not-so-fun sequence of emotionally harrowing events.


Don’t Become Paralyzed by Position

You have to be careful though because the very growth that you’ve experienced from your improvement-oriented mindset may, if you are not careful may turn into your identity – and thereby trip us up again.  If I can say this, this is why a lot of people who grew up in the church can tend to struggle with changing their minds about the things of God when they’re an adult.  In fact, I’ve asked the Lord for years about why some people who get saved as young adults tend to grow so quickly in the Lord.  When those young adults get saved their apt to think “I don’t know anything about the things of God; I was a heathen! So I am doing everything I can to learn them now!!!”  But, if you grew up in the things of the Lord, probably at some point you reached an age as a kid where you may have thought “I should probably know this stuff” – so you don’t want to ask anymore because if you ask it will show that you don’t know it – so therefore you stop learning.

The same thing can happen when you are in any other position – pastor, CEO, parent, etc.  “Well surely you ought to know all of that stuff …”  This is the devil’s insidious lie – he sneaks it into our thinking.  “Well you should know that.  Don’t sake about that.  You should know that.”  Do you see what’s happening?  He is sterilizing your capacity for growth.

Think back to your first weeks and months in the Lord – the excitement, the possibility!  If you are not ecstatic about the next 4.5 months it is because you have lost your joy for learning and this is why.  I’ve noticed this in my own life – trying to consider where some of my love for learning had gone.  Don’t let position paralyze you.  Don’t stop doing what you did to get where you are.  When you are doing “position maintenance” in your heart, you are not simply just growing, you are trying to maintain a status and it steals your joy and strength for growth.


What’s at the Root of All of This?

What’s at the root of this? What causes this to happen?  Let’s figure out what triggers this line of thought so that we can put a lock on that trigger to make sure that bullet never gets shot to sabotage your growth.  In order to do this, lets get a few scriptures on our mental palette and then we can mix them together a bit . . .

Luke 14:27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  So . . .  what’s the cross that we have to bear to be His disciple  Matthew 16:24-25 helps answer that question: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'”  The cross that we bear as disciples is about laying down our own life.  That is what Jesus did on the cross – He laid down His life, and He is instructing anyone who would like to be His disciple to do the same.  In fact, Matthew 10:24-25a shows us that discipleship is not about self-worth, but about laying down self and emulating another “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.”  There is no need to build your own identity; it’s enough to be like your teacher!  It’s enough to be like Jesus!  It’s not about self worth – it’s about being like Him.

We saw earlier in Phillipians 3:12-15 that Paul’s mindset was “forgetting those things which are behind” in order to “press on.”  What were “those things which are behind?”  We see what he was referring to in verses 3-11 of chapter 3: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so . . . But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ . . . that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness.”  Paul was laying behind his works for righteousness – his self-righteousness – his OWN value.  And why did he lay all those works behind?  He tells us in verse 10: “That I may know Him.”  That is the secret to discipleship.  That is the small gate and the narrow road.  Self-righteousness sabotages growth.  It steals the keys of knowledge by placing your correctness as the goal . . . above TRUTH itself.

This is the foundation of discipleship and learning is going to be so much more fun we get free of needing to “maintain a position” for ourselves and realize it is more than enough to simply be like our master!  There is a season of growth that is available to each of us right now – in the coming months – that we are allowed to be ecstatic about!  And all that growth is going to come through changed mindsets – which can be a really fun process when we are simply able to seek Him and learn from Him!


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