Discipleship Part I
If ever there was a word that made music to the ears, it has to be the word ‘freedom.’ It is the yearning and passionate desire of humanity to break free: free from bondage, tyranny, oppression, and limitation. It was the war cry of the American revolutionaries as summarized by Patrick Henry’s ringing words: ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ Freedom is the ideal which makes music to the soul.
Yet even in ‘free societies’ there are many who are in bondage. In the United States, it is estimated that one out of every one hundred adult Americans is either in jail or in prison; this is one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. Substance abuse is high all over the world, whether it is narcotics, alcohol, or tobacco. Some are tyrannized by wrong relationships or financial woes. The so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the 1960s was meant to allow unlimited sexual expression without the moral restraints; this coincided with the advent of the birth control pill and was bolstered by the 1973 Roe versus Wade Supreme Court ruling which gave American women a constitutional right to an abortion. Nevertheless, the legacy of this ‘revolution’ has been an explosion of promiscuity, 40 plus million aborted fetuses in the United States alone (up to 100,000 in Australia per year), and countless lives that have been broken or destroyed physically, emotionally and spiritually. All of this was made possible by a mindset of temporal sensual pleasure in the absence of godly commitment. In essence, it has corrupted an entire generation and such corruption brings bondage. Bondage wars against freedom and, unless it is dealt with, the effects can be devastating.
Jesus, as always, provides powerfully simple answers to the human predicament. It is without exaggeration to say that Jesus Christ came to bring liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61:1-3 & Luke 4:18-21). But this liberty was not necessarily from a prison or a predicament--it goes much deeper. ‘Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin’ (John 8:34). While rarely discussed, sin is at the heart and core of all human bondage. It not only brings present misery; it promises even more horrors to come. The wages of sin is death Romans 6:23. Death—eternal death which means permanent separation from the living God--is the ultimate bondage.
God did not create us bound; we became bound through sin. God has graciously provided the antidote to bondage through the sending of His Son Jesus Christ to this planet. Christ took our sin and bondage upon His own body on the Cross and through the ‘great exchange’ transfers to us His righteousness and liberty.
When speaking to the Jews who believed in Him, Jesus showed the key towards real freedom: truth. ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ John 8:32 (KJV).
This verse is well-known and respected, including an inscription inside the US Supreme Court Building in Washington DC. But how well do we understand it?
The cultural patriarchs of western civilization are the ancient Greek philosophers. They pursued truth above all else. When the Apostle Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:8 to think about the things that are ‘true,’ ‘honest,’ ’just,’ ’pure,’ ’lovely,’ ‘good report,’ ‘virtuous’ and ‘praiseworthy,’ he is echoing the Greek value system. The Greeks diligently sought truth as the highest of all virtues. Yet, despite their diligent search, they have never been able to adequately define or explain the precise nature of truth. When the church became tolerated and legal in the 4th century AD, there was a successful attempt to Hellenize it. Plato the ancient Greek philosopher became ‘baptised’ and his dualistic philosophy was woven into the fabric of an increasingly Hellenized Christendom.
Yet Jesus of Nazareth was no Greek philosopher like Aristotle, Socrates, or Plato. He was a Jewish prophet like Moses and His worldview was thoroughly Hebraic. For Jesus, truth was not an assemblage of accurate facts to be memorized and recited; truth is divine revelation to be obeyed.
The late Derek Prince was a philosopher and sought to answer the question ‘What is truth?’ To his relief, he discovered the truth was not a philosophy but a Person named Jesus Christ. Prince taught what is called the three coordinates of truth. They are this:
1. Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6). When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus ‘what is truth’ (John 18:38), little did he realize that he was looking at truth in the face. Thus truth as a Person means you can know and relate to the truth like any other person, yet at the same time you will receive the priceless benefit of total liberation that comes from truth.
2. The Word of God is truth (John 17:17). Throughout the centuries people of faith have discovered that the Word of God is completely and reliably true, that every word of God is pure (Proverbs 30:5), and we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4). So vital is the hearing and application of the truth of God’s Word that Jesus says whoever hears and does it is a wise person who builds his house on a rock. No matter how hard the winds blow, the rains descend and the floods rise, it will not destroy the house because it is built on a rock (Matthew 7:24-25). Because the potency and benefits of God’s Word are so high, there are also severe warnings about adding or taking away from God’s Word (Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).
3. The Holy Spirit is truth (John 16:13). As the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit will work just like the Word and Jesus: exposing error, unmasking deception, confirming the Word with peace in the heart and miracles in the public arena.
Deception is a very real problem in the last days. Jesus warns us to make sure that no man deceives us (Matthew 24:4). The Holy Spirit ‘expressly’ speaks that in the latter days some will depart from the faith, listening to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (I Timothy 4:1). Evidence shows it is already happening! Is there any protection? Yes…it is called truth; God’s truth.
Truth is antidote to the darkness and danger of deception. In a world of lies, mendacity, spin doctoring, half truths, and outright deception, the pathway can be laden with ditches and danger. Truth comes as a bright light to illuminate the pathway, reveal error, hamper harm, and lead to the desired destination. When the above three coordinates of truth line-up, you know are on the right path. You have become ‘deception-proof.’
Jesus promises that His truth, when rightly received and applied, will lead you into total freedom (John 8:32). Not necessarily independence from a colonial power nor the right to do what you want when you want, but to be set free from sin, guilt, bondage, and shame. God’s freedom means you no longer are a slave to Satan nor the flesh. You are now able to serve God and bear much fruit for His glory.
But to obtain true freedom, you have to follow a particular pathway. It is called discipleship.
The truth—God’s truth—is a great liberator. But one has to know and practice the truth in order to experience the benefits. To ‘know the truth,’ one comes to God. To practice the truth, one must follow God.
The only Biblically-endorsed and proven way of following God is called ‘discipleship.’ It is not enough to merely believe, one must practice the truth, and in order to practice, one must be a disciple. Unlike the normal notion of a student-teacher in a school, discipleship is much more wholistic and relational. It means both ‘learning the talk and walking the walk.’ The teacher/discipler imparts knowledge and serves as a role model. The disciple follows in word and deed.
This is precisely what happens to disciples of Christ. Following in His pathway, learning His Word, applying it in their lives, becomes the prime goal. When practiced, the disciple become like his or her teacher.
When a mere believer does not enter into discipleship, they either will not know the truth, continue in it, or experience the glorious liberty that Christ affords. Without exaggeration, the overwhelming reason why church-goers can still wrestle with massive personal problems—even greater than non-church goers—including ruptured relationships, psychological problems, addictions to life controlling substances, bad habits, sexual impurity, and chronic sins, is because they have never experienced God’s liberty which comes from discipleship. You cannot follow Christ fully and still live for the world…it is impossible.
To fail in discipleship is to be like an old wineskin which bursts when receiving the new wine. Or to become a patched up old garment with new patches which tear away and become bigger. To be a true disciple means to become a new wineskin, able to contain the new wine and to be a new garment that needs no patch up.
God wants you to be free. But freedom must come God’s way. So remember the Rx: continue in the Word, be a proven disciple, know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
‘…If continue in word, then are my disciples indeed; 3 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’—John 8:31ff-32