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What's
It All About?


by Kim Harrington

      Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

      

     What’s it all about? It’s all about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament all the true followers of Jesus, not just the twelve apostles, are called disciples. A disciple studies under the Master, lives daily with Him, serves Him and helps Him, and that’s what being a Christian is all about—being a disciple of Jesus.

     Chances are, you’ve just decided to give your life to Christ, and that’s why you’re reading this. You should know right at the offset that being a disciple of Jesus isn’t difficult, but it does take a firm commitment to hang in there and stay by the Lord. You don’t have to have an incredible amount of will-power. He will give you the power to obey Him and to do His will. You don’t need to be a very good person—it’s assumed that you’re not, for all of us have failed Him time and time again. It’s not what you used to be that matters, it’s what He’s going to make of you from now on. You’ll never be the same, and you’ll never regret a sincere decision to follow Jesus. It’s the best life there is; it’s entering into your destiny, being what you were meant to be. Enjoy!

 

Who Is Jesus?

     What’s it all about? Maybe a better question would be, "Who’s it all about?" Being a Christian is not a matter of following certain rules and conforming to a certain "acceptable" lifestyle. It’s a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. That’s an important distinction to remember, because your lifestyle will change a lot in the next few months. But you’ll change because you want to please Jesus, not because it’s the tradition of certain old-fashioned Christians to act in a certain way. Entering any new relationship changes you, and a relationship as deep as the one Jesus desires will change you for eternity.

     Who then is Jesus?  Modern Americans differ in opinion. Some think He was a well-meaning, but sometimes confused, prophet and teacher. A few "New Age" people think of Him as a guru who reached a place of enlightenment through meditation and personal discipline. Many others still take the traditional Christian stance: Jesus was the Son of God and the founder of Christianity, the largest of the world’s religions.

     Who did Jesus Himself say He was?  What does the Bible, the record of His teachings, really say about Him?

     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1,14

     Jesus was (and is) the "Word" of God in fleshly form. He is, in fact, God — the ultimate expression of who and what the Creator of the Universe really is — in human form. He existed forever with God the Father, but in a little town in Palestine some 2000 years ago, He was born in human flesh, reducing Himself to our level so He could really communicate the truth to us in a way we could understand.

     Every other religion is the story of man and his search for God. Christianity is unique in that God is searching for man. God, in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, actually came to earth to declare Himself to humankind. He lived among us for about thirty-three years, teaching about God and life, healing the sick and helping people. For His efforts, certain jealous religious leaders had Him executed by crucifixion, but He actually rose from the dead (which is confirmed by secular history books of the time, as well as by the Bible), and then lifted off into heaven in front of 500 witnesses!

     The essence of what He taught is known as the Gospel, or the "good news." The bad news is that life is pretty miserable for a lot of people on this planet. Pick up the newspaper any day and read about war, murder, rape, sickness, death, drugs and crime of all sorts. None of us is immune. Because we’re basically selfish, we manage to inflict a lot of pain on others in the course of a lifetime, as well as catch a lot ourselves. The Bible calls it sin. Just because sin is in the world, some things happen whether we’re trying to be good or not, like sickness. And death ultimately happens to us all. (see Romans 3:12,23)

     The good news is that Jesus can give us a new start. He offers forgiveness of sins to everyone who decides to believe in Him and become His disciple. He came to give us life, real and abundant, not just a day-to-day existence, (John 10:10). And, after giving us a wonderful life down here on earth, He wants to take us into heaven with Him for eternity. We can find God, understand the meaning of the universe, and receive everlasting life all at once. It’s almost too good to be true. That’s why it’s called the "good news."

     Becoming a disciple of Jesus is very simple, but it must be done from the heart. Just admit your need for a Savior: that you’re a sinner, and that you haven’t found real satisfaction in life outside of Christ. Determine to be changed, from the inside out, into who Jesus wants you to be. Then ask Him into your heart and life to be your Lord and Savior. You’ll notice the difference right away.

 

The Holy Spirit

     The purpose of the disciple is to become like the Master (see Matt 10:25). In Bible times Jesus’ disciples walked and talked with Him and ate at the same table every day. He knew that couldn’t be the case for all the disciples that came afterwards, so He sent the Holy Spirit to help us (see John 14:16-17, 26). The Holy Spirit lives within us, helps us to understand the ways of God, gives us power over sin, and even the ability to do miracles in Jesus’ name.

     "...You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Acts 1:5,8

     Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit before going out to spread the Good News. They were already His disciples, they already had their sins forgiven and the assurance of eternal life, but He told them they still needed one more thing—they needed the Holy Spirit. Many Christians today are ignorant of the power of the Spirit, but the early church always emphasized this important aspect of discipleship. Peter told the people gathered at the temple in Jerusalem, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 2:38). Paul, when meeting some Ephesian believers for the first time, asked them if they’d received the Holy Spirit yet (Acts 19:2). They considered this very important. The Christian disciple needs to be empowered by the same Spirit who filled Jesus Himself.

     Read Acts 2:4, 10:44-46, and 19:6. These portions of the Bible talk about what happened when people received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They received power to live in victory over sin and temptation, and power to tell people about Jesus. They also received the ability to do miraculous things, things outside the normal ability of other humans, like speak in languages they’d never learned, heal the sick, and cast out demons. The supernatural world is very real—the Bible teaches that the invisible world is more substantial than the visible world (2 Cor 4:18). Being a disciple of Jesus is not just embracing another philosophy, it’s coming to grips with the reality of the spiritual realm.

     Talk to your pastor about getting baptized in the Holy Spirit and adding this new dimension to your life as soon as you can. He’ll also be able to answer any questions you may have.

 

Three Essential Disciplines

     The root word of disciple is discipline, and you’ll need to practice the basic disciplines of Jesus in order to be a successful follower. Just as your body needs the disciplines of eating and drinking in order to be nourished, so your spiritual life needs to be nourished by what we sometimes call the Three Essentials: Prayer, Bible Reading, and the Church.

 

Prayer, Talking to God

     "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father....

Matthew 6:6 (see also Matt 6:5-13, 7:7-11, and 1 Tim 2:1-5)

 

     The more you know Jesus, the better disciple you’ll be, and you can’t get to know Him or your Heavenly Father without sitting down and talking to them, spending time in prayer. That’s right, prayer is talking to God, no more and no less. Don’t get confused by lifeless chants and memorized creeds, and don’t worry about learning the proper King James English to use when you talk with God. He understands you just as you are, and He wants to talk to the real you, not a phony with a religious mask on.

     Tell Him how much you appreciate all He’s done for you, and how much you love Him. Let Him in on your innermost thoughts, desires, and needs. He really understands and cares about the details of your life, and He has the ability to work things out as you present them to Him. He’s never too busy to hear the prayers of someone who comes in Jesus’ name.

     Successful disciples like to set aside an hour or so every day (preferably in the morning) for prayer and Bible-reading. It’s a great way to start off the day, and it's certainly more effective than a little quickie prayer before you go to bed.

 

The Bible, God's Word

     All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

     There are good books and bad books, but the Bible is definitely in a class by itself. Over thirty authors, claiming to be inspired by God, wrote it over a period of some 1600 years. Divine authorship is a big claim, but the Bible has lived up to it. The wisdom in its pages has guided the lives of hundreds of millions of people from every conceivable background for thousands of years. Though most of the characters were rooted in ancient civilizations long since vanished, the words they lived by are remarkably pertinent in every day and age. Year after year it tops the charts as the best-selling book. It’s been translated into over 2000 languages; its message is truly universal.

     The Bible describes the unfolding of God’s message to mankind: beginning at the founding of the earth; progressing through the history of the chosen people, Israel; climaxing in the ministry of Jesus Christ and the founding of the church; and culminating in the apocalyptic end of the universe as we now know it. In between all the great events are teachings that are meant to guide you through all the ups and downs of life. You’ll read the Bible over and over again in your lifetime, but you’ll never exhaust its riches.

     We recommend the new disciple stay in the New Testament for awhile. What’s important for you at this time is to find out what Jesus said and did, and how the early apostles carried on from there. Try starting at the Gospel of John, then reading through the Book of Acts, and some of the letters to the early churches (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, etc.). Don’t worry, you won’t get bored—you’ll be anxious to read more and more of God’s life-giving Word!

 

The Church, the Family of God

     And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

     The disciple of Jesus Christ is not meant to be a loner. Jesus said "I will build my church," (Matt 16:18) and though the church is made up of individuals, we’re all put together in Christ to be one organism. The Christian must learn to be a team-player. The Lord has designed us to be dependent on one another—none of us have all we need to be successful all by ourselves. (see 1 Cor 12:12-27)

     Your brothers and sisters in Christ can be a real asset to you, especially in the first few years of your new life in the Lord. They’ll be able to help you over the rough spots, sharing some of the insights they’ve gained in their own walk with Christ. (You’d be surprised at where some of them come from—they may look squeaky clean right now, but that’s because Jesus has been working on them for a few years already). In the future you may be needed to help disciple a younger person than you, so listen close, and learn all you can.

     Come together with other Christians as often as you can, whether it’s for regularly scheduled services, prayer meetings, Bible classes, or just a little relaxation and fellowship. Establish some real friendships among the brethren and you won’t tempted to go back into your old pre-Jesus lifestyle.

 

Sin & Righteousness

     For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works...

Ephesians 2:8-10

     The Good News is that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and that by simply receiving Him as your Lord and Savior and becoming His disciple you can be completely forgiven. You did nothing to earn it. There was nothing you could do. Jesus did it all for you. That’s what grace means. That’s why our salvation is called "the gift of God." All you had to do was believe in Jesus and start following Him.

     But that doesn’t mean you can just go out and live in sin, counting on His forgiveness to absolve you of all guilt. Jesus is righteous (without sin) and He expects His disciples to be righteous, too. He has a plan for your life, a plan for you to walk in His will, and help others experience life in Him. Sin can get in the way of you fulfilling your destiny—taken far enough it can sidetrack you completely. So never take it lightly.

     Nevertheless, you probably won’t be perfect overnight, so the Lord has made provision for you if you fail. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unright-eousness." So don’t walk around with a heavy load of guilt and frustration. Confess your sin, determine not to do it again, and trust the Lord for strength as well as forgiveness.

 

God & Your Money

     "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

Luke 6:38

     Some people consider money a "dirty" subject, especially when it comes to religion, but God cares about everything, including our finances. Money plays a big part in all of our lives, and is a major player in causing people to sin, too (see 1 Tim 6:9-10). In addition, the work of God on this earth needs money, just like anybody else — and it doesn’t just fall from heaven!

     God has devised a way that not only meets the needs of the church and keeps the bills paid, but also prospers His people in the process. It operates on the same principle as planting a crop or garden. You put some seed money in the ground, and God brings a harvest back to you in due season. That is, you give money to the church, to missions, or to some needy brother or sister, and God promises to pay you back with interest and more! Some people never prosper because they hold on so tight to what they have. In order to get ahead you have to stick your neck out a little and invest—and there’s no better place to invest than the kingdom of heaven. (See 2 Cor 9:6-15, Gal 6:6-10.)

     Specifically that means tithes and offerings. The tithe is one tenth of your earnings. If that sounds like a lot, remember that the government gets almost 50% of your paycheck one way or another—God asks a lot less for a larger return. The offering is anything above and beyond ten percent that you wish to give. The tithe usually goes to your home church, the place where you get spiritually fed. The offering can go towards supporting any needy project or person. Happy sowing and reaping!

 

Your Enemy The Devil

     Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

1 Peter 5:8

     Well as you might expect, being a Christian isn’t all fun and games and happy times with the brethren. We have an enemy, and he’s the most formidable one that’s ever walked across the pages of history. The Bible calls him the devil, or Satan. Jesus said he only comes for one thing: to steal and kill and destroy (Jn 10:10). And that’s what he wants to do in your new life as a disciple of the Lord.

     Before you decided to follow Jesus, you were a citizen of Satan’s realm, and you may have opened many doors in your life to him through various sins. Occult and false religions, drug addiction, and sexual promiscuity are some of his specialties. He gains a foothold in people’s lives through these and tries to destroy them.

     The good news is that you now have the power to resist him and his ways—so do it! If you find that some of the old bonds are hard to break, talk to your pastor about some special prayer for deliverance—it really works—but whatever you do, don’t let the enemy lure you into your old lifestyle.

     The devil may also try to confuse you by bringing people from various cults to your door. Check them out with your pastor before you let them inside. Stick with the Bible, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. A lot of people have ideas about God and the meaning of life and some of them sound pretty reasonable, but men can be wrong. Stick with the Word of God.

     Fellow disciple, you’ve got a great life ahead of you and eternity after that, so don’t get discouraged. Get into Jesus, and start telling others about Him too. The world is desperately in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and He’s chosen you to help spread the word.

 

Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

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