This month we continue to look at the process of ’making disciples’. The purpose or mission of NPBC is to worship and glorify God and to ‘make disciples’ of Jesus Christ in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). A disciple is someone who is ‘following Jesus’; is someone who is ‘being changed by Jesus’; and is someone who is also ‘committed to the mission of Jesus’ (c.f. Matthew 4:19). Making disciples of Jesus Christ involves following a certain method (known as the 4 “P’s”).
Before we continue to explore that, though, let me remind you that ultimately the work of making disciples is a spiritual work that can only be accomplished by God only God can change the heart of a person and bring about spiritual regeneration (c.f. Ephesians 2:1-9; John 6:44). Making disciples is God’s work, achieved however, as His word and Spirit work through the activity of his disciples and in the hearts of those they speak to. It is this activity that is described by the 4 “P’s”. Last month we focused on the third of these:
‘People as God’s fellow workers’. Here is the fourth and final one…
Persevering step by step – This is the ‘sanctification’ aspect of our salvation. We live out our new lives in the midst of this ‘present darkness’ (c.f. Ephesians 6:12). We strive more and more to cast off what belongs to our former life (to put to death the deeds of the body) and to clothe ourselves in the new garments that befit our new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. The Christian life is lived in this sense of groaning, persevering anticipation. The victory is already won in Christ. We are already blameless and righteous and sanctified in his sight, washed clean, granted citizenship in heaven. And yet, in faith and hope we seek more and more to live a life of love as we await the final consummation – the resurrection from the dead, when our struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil will finally be over. Paul captures this beautifully in Philippians 3. Having affirmed in the strongest terms that his own works and law keeping are rubbish, and that righteousness comes only from trusting in Christ, he nevertheless speaks of ‘straining forwards towards the goal’ (c.f. Philippians 3:12-14).
The Christian life (for some) happens in one enormous momentous step from death to life; But, it also takes place step by step, as we learn to observe all of Christ’s commandments, as the suffering we endure for Christ produces in us endurance, character and hope. Christ-learners are made patiently and perseveringly over time. Disciple-making deals in the messy realities of weariness and faint-heartedness, and our constant struggle against sin. It takes into account the reality that Christians will be at different stages in ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ – some will be new to the faith, some weak, some stronger, some immature, some in relational conflict, some struggling with a particular temptation or desire, and so on. By the Cross of Christ we are rescued out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son, and have an eternally secure inheritance in Christ that is already ours. Our daily walk is now in the light rather than in the darkness, as we live out day by day who we really are (citizens of Christ’s kingdom).
Those who remain trapped in the darkness are also at different points and have different issues. Some are ‘far away’ and hard of heart; others are ‘closer’, in that they are hearing the gospel and considering the gospel of Christ. Thus, the goal of every form of Christian ministry could be summarised simply as seeking to help each person, wherever they happen to be, to take a step towards Jesus – to come closer towards hearing the gospel and being transferred out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light; and then to press forward towards maturity in Christ in every aspect of their lives. The means by which God moves people towards Christ is through proclamation of the Word of God, prayerful dependence upon the Spirit of God, with people as His fellow workers, and persevering step by step.
*Adapted from ‘The Vine Project’ by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne © Matthias Media 2016