I feel inadequate as a disciple-maker, but I know the importance of the mandate Jesus gives to his disciples in Matthew 28: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It is easy to give lip service to God: I believe in God, I pray to God, God gave me a job, God is good. It is far less easy to become His disciple. And we certainly can’t disciple others if we are not disciplining ourselves in our own practice of discipleship. And the first and primary step in growing as a disciple is reading and applying the Word in our everyday lives.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Heb. 4:13
If you believe that the Word is living and active (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1:1), then you will believe verse 20 of Matt. 28: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus did not leave us to fend for ourselves. He gave us gifts: His Word, His grace and the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, we can understand the Word and have the ability to obey it and to reflect the love and grace of God.
Richard Lovelace once wrote that a lot of the problems believers have in their lives stem from a failure to appropriate the promises of the Gospel. There is truth in this. I am not denying the complexities of genetics and chemical imbalances regarding our physical and mental health: as a mental health counselor, to do so would be irresponsible. But I don’t think Lovelace is talking about that: he is addressing the very real problem of Christians giving lip service to the Gospel, while thinking, behaving, responding and reacting otherwise.
If we don’t know the Word, then our faith will be shallow. Oh, we will be able to walk in the shallows, looking like we know what we are doing, but when we hit the deep water and our feet leave the shore, we will flail and flounder. The Gospel--the Good News that shouts while we are more sinful than we dare believe, we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope (paraphrasing Jack Miller here)--is our lifeline, our buoy, that not only saves us but propels us through the deep waters of life.
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Cor. 4:2
It can be tempting to use Bible verses to accomplish our own goals or desires. There have been heinous crimes committed using the Word as an accomplice. Televangelists have stolen money from generous people who believed God would bless them if they gave; American Christians in the 19th century took the Word out of context to justify slavery; there are husbands who distort scripture to abuse their “disobedient” wives; there are those who believe the freedom promised to believers means anything goes, because God will forgive us anyway.
These are not reasons to throw out the Bible. God is not responsible for sin. We are. And these examples prove how important it is to study and grow in the Word as true disciples of Christ.
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4