Discipleship 101 - Bible

I started a series on discipleship a while back, suggesting we would look at the following topics:

  1. Bible
  2. Prayer
  3. Church
  4. Evangelism

The goal is to help ensure that we are disciple-making disciples in our churches and so obedient to our Lord's command for the church. We start this month with the Bible.

Have you ever known someone who never stopped talking and never really listened. They might think of themselves as your friend. They might assume they know you, or know what you're going to say, but it's very frustrating, because actually they just make assumptions and project themselves and their opinions onto you.

Sometimes we can treat Jesus a bit like that. We might be forever talking to Jesus telling him what we need, what we'd like him to do and what we think about things. We might think we know him well and be confident that we know what he would think about a given situation or issue. We might even be very happy to tell other people what Jesus thinks. But do we ever take the time to listen to him - really listen.

Part of Jesus' final instructions about making more disciples was to be:

Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (‭Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭20‬ NIVUK)
In other words, to know and be Jesus' disciple we must listen to his teaching. Similarly, Jesus said:

You are my friends if you do what I command. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭14‬ NIVUK)

If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we must listen to and obey his teaching. Now obviously we find the words of Jesus in the four gospels. Does that mean I should only listen to Jesus in the teaching sections of those books of the Bible? I don't think so, because Jesus, in his teaching, tells us to look beyond that to the whole Bible.

Jesus promises that his first disciples would remember his teaching and would be taught more from him by the Holy Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭26‬ NIVUK)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. (‭John‬ ‭16‬:‭13-14‬ NIVUK)

This is Jesus ensuring that the church will have his full teaching from the first disciples (that's who he is talking to and it was those disciples who could be reminded of what Jesus had said!). For us, that means we can look at the New Testament (written by or under the influence of those disciples) as Jesus' teaching.

What about the Old Testament? Is that a dead book now Jesus has come? Although it is not unusual to find Christians who somewhat shun the Old Testament, it is a mistake, because it dismisses the attitude that Jesus himself had to the Old Testament. Jesus freely quoted the Old Testament in his teaching, saying for example that:

Scripture cannot be set aside (‭John‬ ‭10‬:‭35‬ NIVUK)

More than that, Jesus sees the Old Testament as being fundamentally about him.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ (‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭27, 44‬ NIVUK)

So the Old Testament as well as the New Testament are the teaching we need to listen to if we want to be disciples of Jesus.

The apostle Paul summarises these thoughts.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NIVUK)

If you want to know God, what he thinks and how you should live for him, then you need to listen to what he has said in the Scriptures - the Bible - and be obedient to it. In short, that means that a key part of discipleship is being Bible students, i.e. those who listen carefully to our friend Jesus in his word and obey it.

It's no good thinking we know what he thinks already, without actually listening to what the Bible teaches. I see that happen often. I remember a training session as a curate, where a friend suggested that it was right to see people in our communities as sinners who need a Saviour. Many were horrified at the idea and someone retorted that "Jesus would never say that." The problem is that Jesus did say that (Mark 2:17 would be a good place to start). We too often think we know Jesus and what he taught, without actually listening to him in the Bible. We mustn't just project ourselves onto Jesus!

Our attitude instead should be that of the Psalmist:

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (‭Psalm‬ ‭119‬:‭15-16‬ NIVUK)


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