Why We’re Not Making Disciples

Have you ever thought that we’ve done a better job of making ‘believers’ than we have ‘disciples’?

Maybe you’ve heard (or said) something like, “You’ve trusted in Jesus as savior, now make him your Lord.”

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations of ministry can be helping people make that move from trusting in Jesus to forgive our sins and re-orienting our lives around God’s mission and purposes.

Here’s the thing:

It’s easy for us to believe that Jesus died for our sins in order that we can have eternal life – be accepted into heaven.

Why?   Because life is still oriented around ourselves.  Salvation is a benefit to us.

Then we are later asked, as time goes on, to consider reorienting our lives around God.

This is actually a much bigger conversion than that earlier belief in Jesus as Savior.

So, how was the early church so much more effective at making fully devoted disciples of Jesus than we are?

They saw things in the opposite order than we do.

Just look at one of the most well known verses in the book of Romans:

‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’   Romans 10:9

Notice Paul says here that first comes the confession that Jesus is Lord.  We’ve lost the essence of this word for the most part.  To confess Jesus as Lord is to recognize who he is and the authority that he has over our lives.   Then comes the belief, which Paul orients primarily around the resurrection.

Then the result of confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that he was raised from the dead is salvation.

So salvation comes as a result of placing our faith in Jesus as Lord.

But Christians reading this seem to be oblivious to it.

I recently read a description of this verse that said this about it.

“Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins – and we will be saved!”

But that’s not what this verse says!!!

We have so bought into what we think the gospel (basically only the cross) that we’ve missed so much of it and we read every verse through the lens of what we already believe instead of listening to what’s being said.

Paul doesn’t say all we have to do is trust that his death was adequate payment for our sins.    That’s part of it of course, but what he says is that we need to confess Jesus as Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead, then we’ll be saved.

This is so important that I need to share another example.   On the day of Pentecost, after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up to preach.   What does he say about Jesus?   Here is part of the culmination…

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”   Acts 2:32-33

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 2:36

That’s the end of his message.  What we need to know is Jesus was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God and has received the Spirit that he’s poured out.   He is Lord and Messiah.    These are kingly terms of power and authority.

When the people hear this, they are ‘cut to the heart’ and ask how they should respond.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

The called for response is repentance – reorientation of their lives in allegiance to Jesus as Lord.  Baptism is the act that signifies the depth of that commitment.   And their sins would be forgiven.

Notice the pattern.   Have faith in Jesus as Lord and our sins will be forgiven.

We often teach Savior now, Lord hopefully later.

The apostles preached, Lord and Savior now.

No Lord, no Savior.

It’s a package deal.  We don’t get Jesus piecemeal with the parts that we like first.

We don’t incorporate Jesus as a part of our lives.

We reorient our lives around who Jesus is and live in light of his Kingdom.

It’s certainly possible and even likely that less people will respond to that message.  But those that do will be setting their first step of faith on the path of discipleship.

This isn’t the only obstacle we have to making disciples, but I believe it’s certainly one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

7 thoughts on “Why We’re Not Making Disciples”

  1. Dan,

    We’re all thinking about The Reformation this week–how do you defend Lordship-salvation while also keeping in mind that salvation is by grace alone through faith, not by any work?

    If someone has a deathbed conversion, in what sense have they made Jesus their Lord?

    It seems to me that Lordship is more of a litmus test for salvation. Those who God truly saves will produce fruit evidencing their salvation. They will show by their lives that Jesus is Lord. But this seems like a response to salvation, not a requirement for salvation. Salvation causes Lordship, not the other way around. If you notice a lack of fruit in your life, the answer isn’t to try harder, it’s to go back to how you were first saved–repent and believe, root yourself in the gospel, water the tree, feed the plant.

    I’m sure you have a careful way of treating this, and I’d love to hear your take.

    John

    PS: I get your blog posts in my email each day and I’ve been loving them! They are great encouragement! I’m glad you’ve picked it up again. Keep up the great work.

  2. Dan,

    We all have the Reformation on our mind this coming week — how does the idea of Lordship salvation fit in with the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, not by any works?

    What do you do with a deathbed convert? In what sense have they made Jesus their Lord?

    I agree making Jesus our Lord is utterly important. But this follows *from* salvation. True, saving faith, really does imply that someone will show that Jesus is Lord by their life, as you say. Lordship serves as a litmus test for salvation, but it is not a “cause” of salvation in any sense. We are saved “to” good works, not “by” or “through” them. It seems like scripture makes it very clear that we don’t just begin with faith and then later we “do it on our own.” The righteousness that JUSTIFIES us is “by faith from first to last.”

    If we don’t feel like we’re doing a very good job of making Jesus our Lord, or if we don’t feel like we’re producing fruit, the answer isn’t to try harder. The answer is that we are to return to our roots, water the tree, return to the pure gospel in which we first believed–always focusing our attention on Christ and his work, not on ourselves or our own works.

    I would love to hear your careful take on this tricky debate! And Happy Reformation Day to you, Dan 🙂

    John

    PS: I have been loving your daily blog posts. They have been a great encouragement!

    1. Hi John!

      Thanks so much for commenting. And I really appreciate that you are reading some of these posts. I never quite know who’s reading them.

      I like that request for a careful response. I’m not used to giving those. 🙂

      I’ve started reading an interesting book that you may or may not find helpful called ‘Salvation by Allegience Alone’ by Matthew Bates. The author, who specifically affirms the ‘solas,’ makes a pretty convincing (to me) case that we’ve not always understood faith (pistis in Greek) in all it’s full range of meaning.

      He uses several examples of the word’s contemporary use in other literature (Jewish writings around the time of the first century) to show that faith often means something much more like allegiance…

      Take this into the Bible and a question of what the gospel message that we’re asked to respond to is. We’ve made it out to be mostly about the cross and tied in the resurrection secondarily. What we (and I’m talking about myself here) have not thought nearly as much about is what it means to think about the ascended Jesus as Lord, Messiah, King.

      If we are asked to have faith primarily (or only) in Jesus as savior, as I believe we have mostly, there seems to be little life change essentially entailed. We’ve said that it grows out of it, as you mentioned. But so often it doesn’t John. And you are right to point out that it entails not trying harder but going back to the roots of the faith.

      If we are instead primarily asked to respond in faith to Jesus as Lord – as the exalted King – than our faith response would be allegiance that involves action.

      So, the point of the post is that faith in Jesus as Lord should look more robust than faith in Jesus as savior.

      I’m certainly not saying that grace and faith involve thinking we can earn God’s grace and love, obtain salvation through works of the law etc.

      But I’m no longer convinced that biblical faith precludes concrete, allegiant actions as a part of faith itself.

      I could say much more as it relates to faith and works, Luther and the Reformation etc.

      I’d be happy to share more thoughts on any of these areas as you’d find fruitful to inquire about.

      1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Dan. You do know how to give a careful response! 😀

        “We’ve said that it grows out of it, as you mentioned. But so often it doesn’t John.” — I would say that if salvation implies sanctification, so if sanctification is missing, maybe salvation is too! *True* saving faith leads to fruit. Agree?

        “But I’m no longer convinced that biblical faith precludes concrete, allegiant actions as a part of faith itself.” — Again, I agree that faith immediately implies actions, but the moment you actually try to name even ONE of them that is a “required part of faith,” you run aground as a heretic. For example, if you were to say, “wrapped up in faith is also the requirement that we read the Bible and pray daily,” you would be a heretic. So, can we give even one example of a concrete action that can be “attached” to faith?

        You never specifically responded to the “what do you do with a deathbed convert” question. I’d be interested to hear your take.

        We are really splitting hairs here, I know. Thanks for entertaining this philosophical debate 🙂

        John

      2. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Dan. You do know how to give a careful response! 😀

        “We’ve said that it grows out of it, as you mentioned. But so often it doesn’t John.” — I would say that if salvation implies sanctification, so if sanctification is missing, maybe salvation is too! *True* saving faith leads to fruit. Agree?

        “But I’m no longer convinced that biblical faith precludes concrete, allegiant actions as a part of faith itself.” — Again, I agree that faith immediately implies actions, but the moment you actually try to name even ONE of them that is a “required part of faith,” you run aground as a heretic. For example, if you were to say, “wrapped up in faith is also the requirement that we read the Bible and pray daily,” you would be a heretic. So, can we give even one example of a concrete action that can be “attached” to faith?

        You never specifically responded to the “what do you do with a deathbed convert” question. I’d be interested to hear your take.

        We are really splitting hairs here, I know. Thanks for entertaining this philosophical debate 🙂

      3. John – tomorrow’s most is about the thief on the cross and the death bed convert. 🙂 I didn’t write it with your question in mind but maybe it was subconscious. I suppose the two things that I would want to hold together most of all is that salvation is a free gift of God that apart from any merit or achievement being the first. The second is that Jesus intends our response to involve discipleship. For me, that keeps the biggest picture in view. Jesus didn’t come just to forgive us our sins. He certainly did do that, but also the larger purpose of why we accomplished that for us. We may differ on what role we play in our own ongoing spiritual growth, but we’ll leave that one for another day. 🙂 Thanks again. I’m honored more by challenges as ‘likes.’ I’m just trying to think through things as well and I don’t claim to always have it right.

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