Adapted from Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit (used with permission)
The disciple has a basic understanding of spiritual growth principles and is aware of the beneficial influences of time, adversity and the sovereignty of God.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS OBJECTIVE
This training objective covers a lot of ground, and you’ll probably need to do a considerable amount of background study in order to master it. If you know what the Bible has to say about the basic principles of Christian growth, you will be able to help your disciple immensely in his progress toward maturity, but actually you will benefit even more!
So I suggest you look up the following verses and jot down a summary for each in your notebook. There is no way we can cover all existing growth principles here, nor does your disciple need to know them all this early in his life with Christ. What we’re trying to do here is simply get a broad view of the major principles.
1. We grow as we give Christ top priority in our lives.
2. We grow as we feed upon God’s Word.
4. We grow as we pray.
5. We grow as we fellowship.
6. We grow as we witness.
*[After witnessing to the woman at the well]
6. Growth takes time.
• Acts 7:23-34: God put Moses through a forty-year training program in the courts of Pharaoh, then another forty-year training program in the wilderness of Midian, and then decided he was ready to begin his ministry.
• Galatians 1:15-2:1: After Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, God put him through a seventeen-year training program before He finally allowed him to launch his public ministry.
7. Adversity facilitates growth.
8. God sovereignly oversees our growth.
• Psalm 71:20: Even in the worst times, God is in control.
• Psalm 119:75: Sometimes the afflictions we experience are brought about by the direct action of God, but always for our good, and always prompted by His faithfulness.
PEP TALK FOR THE DISCIPLEMAKER
In Training Objective #4 I said that we can gain major victory over our old, sinful natures if we know a few things and if we do a few things. We covered the “know” part in the two wells illustration. Your disciple should now know that, while he possesses a new nature, one that desires to pursue righteousness, he still has his old nature as well, and that the two of them will always be at each other’s throats. But as he, through the exercise of his will, consistently draws upon his new nature instead of his old, his outward behavior will increasingly reflect his new creation status.
But we can’t stop there. You’ve got to move on to the “do” part. Merely knowing about available resources will never give the new believer victory. A field general in a war would soon be relieved of duty if all he ever did was take inventory on his weapons, and never deployed them to the front where the fighting was going on.
There are certain specific activities that the disciple can engage in that will without fail help him gain victory over Satan and his old nature and help him grow in Christlikeness.
Make sure that you recognize this fact: The disciple wants to grow; he’s chomping at the bit to grow; he is dying to know what things he can do that will help him become more like Jesus. If he doesn’t find out soon, he’ll become like most other Christians here in the United States and lose interest—and many battles. Like so many of the redeemed before him, he’ll start to think, There aren’t any answers. There isn’t anything I can do to help bring about my own spiritual maturity. Soon he’ll gain the attitude that infests so much of the church today: The Christian life is sittin’ in a pew on Sunday, sayin’ grace before meals, and cuttin’ back on the cussin’. Many people, after being Christians for as long as twenty years, are no more mature in Christ than they were six months after receiving Him.
To my mind, there aren’t many things as sad as visiting a mental institution and watching a grown man or woman acting like a baby. And yet, in the spiritual realm, people like that are as common as fleas on a dog.
That won’t be the case with your disciple, though, will it? You’re going to start him off right by teaching him early the principles that will help him grow and keep growing for the rest of the time he’s here on earth!
However, let’s get something straight right from the start. There is a fine but very deep line between “legalism” and “discipling.” The activities we’ll be talking about shortly do not buy us “favor” with God when practiced. God doesn’t love me more when I’m faithful in my prayer life. Reading the Bible every day doesn’t earn me brownie points with God. We can’t have the attitude that, “I witnessed to somebody today, Lord, so now you’ve got to help me get that promotion I was hoping for.” That’s legalism, trying to buy God’s favor through good works, and it can’t be done. In the first place, we should obey Him no-questions-asked simply because He is our Lord (Luke 17:7-10). It’s helpful to remember that He is already lavishing us with 100 percent of His favor, ever since He made us His sons and daughters! One can’t expect more than 100 percent, can one?
We engage in the disciplines of Christianity as a result of self-control, which is the ninth component of the Fruit of the Spirit. Reading the Bible, praying, etc. won’t buy us any special privileges with God, but they will help us function better and more efficiently in the spiritual realm, and in the long run, they help us become more like Jesus. If we exclude those disciplines for fear that we might slip into legalism, we can be sure, based on the Word of God, that we will not function worth beans spiritually. Putting fresh motor oil in my Chevy may not guarantee me the pole position at the Indianapolis 500, but I will be guaranteed a junk car if I don’t.
BROACHING THE SUBJECT
You might start off the conversation something like this:
YOU: So which well have you been drawing on the most this week?
DISCIPLE: The new one, mainly. There were times when I could tell that I had forgotten and gone to the old well, though. Like you said, old habits are hard to break.
YOU: Believe me, I know what you mean! But today I hope to give you some ways that you can make that path out to the new well a little smoother, a little more worn down. Eventually, if you’ll apply these principles faithfully, that path will be like a modern highway, ten lanes wide, and the old well will practically disintegrate from lack of use.
DISCIPLE: You mean I won’t sin anymore?
YOU: I wouldn’t go that far. Theoretically, I suppose it’s possible, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. That sin nature will always be there, and your adversary the devil will always be thinking up new and creative ways to make you fall. But your life will be characterized by victory, power, and a much closer walk with God. And the times that you do stumble and fall will be fewer and fewer.