The title of this article sounds like a self-help book. You know, the ones that claim that you can be thinner, smarter, or a better salesman by following just a few simple steps? Today’s clickbait advertisements on the web seem to acknowledge our modern impatience, and offer “One simple trick” to success…if we will just click on them.
For those of us who are charged with making disciples of Jesus (which is all of us who follow Him), the process is often summarized simply, with phrases like, “What Would Jesus Do?” “Disciples making disciples”, or “Each one reach one.” I’m not opposed to these sayings. I agree that the method God put in place to reach the world through the church with the message of salvation is straightforward.
However, for those of us who are a part of that plan, actually living it out is a lot more complex. There are daily decisions on how to invest our time, dividing it between our own study and teaching others, or between taking care of ourselves and serving others. There are conversations where a wise reply may need to be made in just a few seconds. There are scenarios where the right path is difficult to take, or even difficult to find.
In fact, I would say that living out Jesus’ command to make disciples is “organic” and “relational”, rather than “analytical” and “procedural”. (This is especially difficult for someone like me to acknowledge, being wired for facts and figures.) I can testify that following Jesus is difficult to achieve if our focus is limited to just trying to obey rules, without getting to know Him and trying to learn more about our relationship with Him.
Of course God gave us our rational minds. Similarly, His truth is factual, and often demonstrable or repeatable. Over and above that, though, Jesus (the Truth) taught that the state of our heart must be right, and our attitudes must go beyond keeping the rules of the law.
So, it is with that context that I share the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:9 NLT
For the recipients of this letter, the actions were straightforward: practice what Paul had done (as he emulated Christ), and receive peace.
What about those who are in Paul’s shoes, though? (I believe that this includes all of us, even the Philippians, since they were called to do what Paul was doing.) What should we do?
This verse implies that Paul did four things, so that the Philippians could walk on the right path:
- Teaching – If the Philippians were learning from Paul, then he was teaching them. In order to help disciples of Jesus grow, regardless of where they are in their journey, they must be taught. To do so, we discover truth that we can – and should – teach others through reading God’s Word, listening to Holy Spirit, and being taught ourselves. I also believe that one of the best things we can do is to teach other followers of Jesus how to read the Bible and have conversations with God on their own.
- Giving – While Paul seems to have been reasonably self-sufficient evangelist, I don’t think that this is about him donating tents to the Philippians. Instead, Paul gave of himself to others. He gave up his time, his energy, his safety, and sometimes his well-being to invest in others. We get the same opportunity to serve others and invest in them, in the same manner as Jesus did (even if we can’t save anyone, only point them to the Savior).
- Speaking – There are a lot of reasons for people to do good in this world. Some motivations are selfish or misguided, while others are holy and pure. As a result, observing Christ-like behavior isn’t enough for other people to specifically learn the good news about Jesus. We must speak (or write, or sign, or draw) the good news in a way that others can specifically learn God’s message for them. As you read the Bible, note how great a value God seems to place on the word, both God’s words to people, and the Word (Jesus).
- Living – The Philippians were challenged to behave like Paul did. Not every one of them had to be a missionary throughout the Mediterranean, but Paul’s behavior gave others a chance to see what it looked like to walk with Jesus. I don’t know about you, but sometimes all the instructions I can find aren’t enough to fully understand how to do something. That’s probably why YouTube is a popular way for people to figure out how to fix things around the house. If we are to help make (and develop) disciples of Jesus, we must put into practice – not just teach – what we learn from God, so that they can see what it looks like.
To reiterate, I am not claiming that these four steps will make us missionaries to an entire empire (like Paul). Still, they are four elements to the larger picture of walking with Jesus, and making disciples as He did. Let us teach, give, speak, and act with hearts that love Jesus, today.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.