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As we remember the suffering of our Lord this week, leading up to Good Friday, we should take special note of his response toward those who reviled him. Namely, none. He did not respond. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth,” (Is 53:7). That is the prophetic description of Jesus’ suffering by Isaiah, hundreds of years prior to his crucifixion.

Now, here is Peter’s description of Jesus’ suffering some years after he went to the cross:

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:19-25) 

If you want a real perspective-changer, sit on these verses for a little bit.

Jesus, “though he was in the form of God” (Phil 2:5-11), humbled himself by coming to us as a human. Not stopping there, though such an act needed no further humbling, Jesus allowed himself to be scorned, reviled, despised, rejected, and, ultimately, killed by people who lied about him. Knowing that obedience to the Father was the most important thing he could do, and knowing that he would be vindicated in the end, he did not take it upon himself to justify himself to the wicked people he came to save. Though falsely accused, he was silent, and he carried his own cross to Calvary.

Wood-Toy-SoldiersTo see if we can more fully realize how amazing this is, imagine little, wooden toy soldiers that could talk. Just think of a toy maker carefully crafting and carving these toys with his masterful hands, and then, when he was finished, the soldiers coming to life in their own wooden-toy world. Now imagine their maker becoming a wooden soldier himself so that he could more clearly convey to them his concern for them, for their good. Although that move hardly makes sense in the first place, of everything that exists, it would seem that the wooden soldiers would appreciate it the most. But instead, they falsely (and ridiculously) call their now-wooden maker a fraud, slander him, and hate him. They beat him up, scratch his finish, and crush him.

What did the artist-in-toy-form do? That whole time, he silently and humbly endured it. Though he could have turned back into the human toy maker at any point to justly exalt himself and immediately shame and crush his wicked creations, he did not.

Though imperfect and incomplete, maybe this silly little example will help us see how much more astounding it was for God’s only Son to suffer ridicule and death at the hands of his creation.

Yet in the middle of the violence, Jesus kept his eyes on the prize. Jesus knew that in the end, he would be “highly exalted” as the one bearing “the name that is above every name,” the one to whom “every knee should bow,” and the one about whom “every tongue [would] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

Now, because of Jesus’ humble obedience and love, we have been reconciled to God through his death, and we can cling to the same promise of ultimate vindication in the end. If you endure when reviled for following him, remember that in God’s eyes, you are doing a gracious thing (1 Pet 2:19). Keep your eyes on the prize of the glory of eternal life with God in his eternal Kingdom. To pick up on what Paul lays out in Romans 8:18, the suffering you endure now doesn’t even compare to that prize.

As you share Jesus with people, chances are, you’ll be shot down sooner or later. Many times. And chances are, it won’t just be Jesus they reject and revile, but you with him. Before you stand back up, ready to duke it out with them in a verbal boxing ring, remember Jesus’ example. Will you have the guts not to defend yourself, even if what people say about you isn’t true? We must be prepared to defend the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15), yet like Jesus, we must also be ready to silently and defenselessly endure when we are mocked because of it. All the while, we can joyfully count such suffering a blessing, for in the end, we will be victorious. As Jesus’ said to his disciples, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kind of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12).

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Disciple Making Equation

Every disciple is a disciple maker. This is not a peripheral truth. On the contrary, we ought to keep it in the forefront of our minds as we follow Christ and grow in our love for Him.

But we aren’t naive enough to believe that disciple making could ever be reduced to a simple equation or single-dimensioned formula. The fact of the matter is that there is a wide array of spiritual gifts that are intended to be used for building up believers in the local church. These gifts often lend themselves to various roles in the church (e.g., someone builds community through hospitality and generosity, someone else leads musical worship, someone else preaches, someone else leads a Bible study, someone else is a faithful Bible study participant, etc.). On top of that, each person has different strengths and different weaknesses. It makes sense, then, that from discipler to disciple, these gifts, roles, strengths, and weaknesses won’t always match up, and sometimes this can get messy. Yet this is how God intended disciple making to work.

On one level, each believer is supposed to make disciples in an evangelistic sense. This is vitally important to the accomplishment of the Great Commission. We are to seek out nonbelievers from every nation and proclaim the good new to them: that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15).

By now you probably know that once a disciple is initially made (i.e., someone repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus), the disciple making process is not over. In many ways, it is only beginning. Now begin maturing in their faith as they learn how to actually follow Jesus, growing over time by God’s grace through His Spirit.

Jerry BridgesAt this point, Jerry Bridges, Christian author and long-time disciple maker, has some helpful comments. He submits that in the first stage of post-conversion discipleship, new believers should be personally discipled in how to pray, spend time with the Lord, read their Bibles, rightly apply biblical truth to their lives, etc. This first stage is something that all believers should be engaged in… bringing up baby Christians to the point where they can “self-feed.”

He then discusses a second stage for elders and church leaders, saying that this is not something every believer is necessarily equipped or gifted for. This stage entails what is described in 2 Timothy as entrusting biblical teaching “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” According to the 2 Timothy context, Bridges calls this “training,” specifically in the realm of church leadership. This would involve church elders identifying and discipling future church elders. Not every believer is intended to participate in this.

Check out his entire twelve-minute audio interview at Desiring God.

Bridge’s observations on 2 Timothy make it clear that not every believer is meant to disciple everyone in all the ways they need. So, you shouldn’t feel defeated if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t seem to meet a particular need for the person you’re discipling. Be faithful in building into him or her as the Lord allows, and then allow others to use their gifts to meet other needs. Each of us is wired and gifted in unique ways. If the person you’re discipling needs teaching and equipping that you can’t adequately provide, connect them with another believer who is gifted in this way. In some ways, this is what makes discipleship so messy. Yet this is also where we see the beauty of Christ’s Body shine through.

In summary, every believer is to make disciples in terms of engaging unbelievers evangelistically, and every believer should look to build into younger Christians as they begin to grasp the basics of following Christ. However, due to our different giftings, roles,  strengths, and weaknesses, disciple-making requires a team effort. Gratefully, God has given us the church for this. Just as every person is not supposed to teach high school calculus, so not every believer will be equipped to train up future pastors and teachers for the work of ministry. Bridges reminds us to be faithful in the role God has given us.

PrintHeads up, students.  We wanted to let you know about something that’s coming down the pike this winter. Over Christmas break, December 27-30, a brand new missions conference will take place in Louisville, KY. The purpose of the conference is mobilize students to “magnify the kingly majesty of Jesus” in this world where He is not currently magnified. This means reaching the unreached. And as they so keenly remind us, while everyone who believes in Jesus is saved from the wrath of God, “nobody believes without a messenger.”

There’s a good chance that if you are reading this blog, you are passionate about making disciples (or at least you want to be). This is where it would be good to remember the hugely important part of the Great Commission that talks about making disciples “of all nations.” This is not just a general encouragement to share the gospel wherever we go, but a specific command to intentionally go to all people groups.

Missions should, in some way, be an objective of yours.  Wherever you stand in regard to missions – all about it, totally against it, or not really sure – you should check out Cross.

Secret Church is less than three weeks away on Good Friday, March 29 from 6pm until midnight (CDT). If you are unfamiliar with Secret Church, it is a yearly simulcast event that focuses on intense Bible study and prayer for the persecuted Church in other parts of the world.

This can be used as a tool in your ongoing disciple-making relationships. Since Secret Church will be simulcast, it could look like you and some fellow believers gathering in your living room over pizza to study the Word and pray together. Or maybe your whole church gets involved and hosts a Secret Church simulcast to unify your congregation and spark some good discussion in the days following. But Secret Church is not exclusively relegated to believers. This could be a great way to engage your unbelieving or skeptical friends in deeper discussions about God and the Bible, especially given the intriguing content for the evening – Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World. No matter where you are on your discipleship journey, Secret Church could serve as a helpful way of diving deeper.

This year, the Secret Church simulcast has a few features that have never before been offered.

  1. Live Spanish translation
  2. FREE access for those in ministry overseas (outside of the USA and Canada)
  3. Postponed viewing or rewind/re-watch availability for 30 days following March 29

Below is a video that previews the topic for the night. Make sure you sign up by March 18 to ensure that you receive the 200+ page study guide. You can register here: LifeWay.com/SecretChurch.

You must register through LifeWay, but you can find out more information on the Secret Church website. We hope you find this to be a helpful tool as you seek to make disciples who make disciples!

Follow Me!What is your motivation? The excerpt below is from a short article by Jonathan Dodson entitled “Why Follow Jesus?” To read the full article, go to http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/why-follow-jesus/.

In today’s culture, we are more pragmatic than reflective. Obsessed with knowing what works and how it works, we strive to repeat the formula. We are less concerned with why things work. Discipleship is no exception. Many have traded in the why for the how, motivation for the best practice. This is disconcerting. The reason for this is that practice can take us only so far. When hardship hits, practice needs motivation to continue.

What motivates you to follow Jesus? If this question isn’t one you continually ponder and answer, you will walk away from Jesus rather than after Him.

Note from the editor:  Share your experiences and questions related to disciple-making in the comments portion below or on Facebook. As you share your stories with us and others, we’ll address your most common questions.

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I’m discipling four guys and it has been an awesome experience. One of the four I’m using the Multiply book as a sort of curriculum for the process and its nice to see how he is growing in the Lord through this ministry. Some hurdles for me are the fact that I am more introverted than extroverted so I enjoy being alone so that makes it hard to do life with people.”                            – E.B.M.

 “I’m an introvert as well but need God’s grace to help spread his message to all people groups of the world.”   – Ray L.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and under-qualified when we hear preachers telling us to make disciples of all nations. “Be bold to speak the name of Jesus,” they say. “Tell your neighbors and co-workers about God’s grace. This good news needs to be shared!”

When you’re tempted to shut down or disregard what preachers and teachers are telling you because you feel this way, remember – you are not David Platt, and you are not Francis Chan. You are not even your extroverted friend who is always talking to strangers. And that’s a good thing. By God’s design, you are an introvert.

So what does the Great Commission look like for all the introverts in the room?

First, know that just because introverts may have the natural tendency to internalize their thoughts, isolate themselves a little bit, or initiate few conversations, they are not excused from the mission at hand. All Christians are to be making disciples, so introverts must be prepared to face some of the challenges that may come along with that, especially given their personality.

But that doesn’t mean they need a new personality, or even that their personality is inferior to extroverted personalities for the purpose of making disciples.

And that’s where this second word of encouragement comes in. Introverts should do what they do. No, not cowering in the corner. But they should make disciples according to their gifts and abilities.

For instance, many people who talk little are excellent listeners. In fact, James 1:19 may suggest (rather strongly) that we are not only to cherish the art of speaking less to listen more, but actively seek it. So if words isn’t your thing, don’t feel pressured to talk a lot. While at some point this is required, sharing the gospel needn’t be eloquent or long. Prayerfully and intentionally be on the look out for where God is already moving, and then join in with Him. God is faithful, and the beauty of coupling little talking with much listening is that when you do speak up, you’ll probably know just what He wants you to say, exactly when and how He wants you to say it.

And if solitude is something you like a lot of, take advantage of that alone time to study God’s Word and pray for others, all the while asking God for the courage, guidance, and desire to share life with people as you ought. This will make your interactions with people more meaningful.

Third, while introverts may have different obstacles than extroverts, every personality type has hang-ups when it comes to disciple making… even that guy wearing the “Free Hugs” shirt at summer camp. Though he may be totally comfortable with a lot of attention and interaction with strangers, he has the potential for major aversions to sharing the gospel with people. Whether it is fear of rejection or awkwardness, temptation to pride, feelings of inadequacy, or something else, his extroversion is not always the answer. In some cases, for difficulties such as poor listening, his natural tendency toward chitter chatter can even be tied to the problem.

So, introvert, don’t despair! The grace of God is so strong that even the challenges you face in sharing about it can be overcome. More than that, the difficulties you have can actually serve your cause. Remember 2 Corinthians 12:9-10? In your weakness He is strong! So if you are weak in areas such as conversation-starting, social interaction, or close relational living, why not let your weakness display God’s strength? You’re trying to point to Him anyway.