Small Beginnings (6)
“Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28.9, 10
The essence of discipleship
In his excellent book about growing old, Finishing Our Course with Joy, Dr. J. I. Packer makes two very important observations that apply, not only to those who are growing older, but to all followers of Jesus Christ.
The question Dr. Packer unpacks is: How should we as Christians finish our appointed course, so that we are filled with the joy of the Lord? The world tells us to relax, take it easy, let your working days be behind you, volunteer or not, play golf or take up a new hobby, and as much as you safely can, indulge your every whim. But, as Dr. Packer points out, this route to the end of our days is not an option for believers. Those who are made in the image of God, and who are being remade into the image of Jesus Christ, will continue following Him all their days. And that means, at the very least, that we can always learn something new and lead someone more deeply into fellowship with Jesus.
This, you will recognize, is the essence of discipleship. The New Testament word for disciple derives from a root which means to learn. A disciple is a learner, and a disciple of Jesus is one who learns Jesus. And the work of disciples, as they are learning Jesus (Eph. 4.17-24), is to make disciples of others and thus to lead them more completely into the knowledge and service of our Lord (Matt. 28.18-20).
The consistent witness of Scripture is that we cannot be true followers of Jesus if we are not learning Him. He calls us to learn from Him (Matt. 11.29). The apostles command us to follow in His path, grow in Him, and be transformed into His image (1 Jn. 2.1-6; 2 Pet. 3.18; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). And, as we learn Jesus, we will want every person around us to know about Him and, hopefully, join us as learners and leaders for Jesus.
Knowing and showing
Discipleship thus comes down to knowing Jesus and showing Him to others. A moment’s reflection on Who Jesus is will reveal the exhilarating, albeit daunting, nature of this challenge.
Jesus Christ is the Word and Son of God, the Reason for and Explanation of all things (Jn. 1.1-4). He is the Light of the World (Jn. 8.12), the One in Whom the entire vast cosmos consists, and Who upholds it all by His Word of power (Col. 1.17; Heb. 1.3). He is the Creator of the world, King of kings and Lord of lords, and He sits enthroned in eternal glory, amid the praise of saints and angels, at the right hand of God Almighty. He commands the wind and the seas. He subjects and overcomes spiritual forces of wickedness. He heals the sick and raises the dead. He is all-powerful, all-glorious, all-majestic, all-beautiful, all-good and true, immense, unfettered by anything but His own will, radiant in holiness, infinite in kindness and love, the beginning and end of all things, and the Savior of all who believe in and follow Him.
To know Him thus is to know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11).
Our task is simple: Know Jesus with increasing intimacy and effects, and show Him in His fullness to all the people around us. The measure of your discipleship is the consistency and faithfulness with which you know and show Jesus. And while that’s a simple task – not at all complex or unclear – it is a calling that requires a lifetime of discipline and devotion.
And it all begins, every day, in the Scriptures, where we learn Jesus and become equipped to lead others to Him (Jn. 5.39).
Whom will Jesus teach?
To a people consumed by pride, complacency, and the diversions of this world, Isaiah posed the question, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message?” Following Jesus is a huge calling, infinitely fresh and varied, which unfolds over the course of a lifetime. Throughout our lives we meet, interact with, and affect and are affected by an immense number of people. Think of the people in your family, your neighborhood, your workplace or school. The people you meet at the grocery store, post office, or in any number of social or cultural situations. This is your Personal Mission Field, and Jesus sends you daily to it on the same mission for which He was sent, to bring near, by words, and deeds, the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Jn. 20.21).
To do this faithfully each day, you need to read and search the Scriptures – all the Word of God, over and over, deeper and deeper, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little, faithfully and devotedly, every day. There are no shortcuts in this journey, and nothing can substitute for being daily immersed in the Word of God. You need all the resources of Scripture, in all its scope and depth, to know Jesus and show Him to your world.
We cannot follow Jesus except as He reveals Himself to us in His Word. And we cannot lead others to Him except as we show Him as He is in His Word. The life-giving power of Scripture awaits us and those to whom we show Jesus (Jn. 6.63; Heb. 4.1), and we must make sure to avail ourselves of it daily.
The ability to know and show Jesus, to learn Jesus and lead others to Him, comes from the line upon line, here-a-little/there-a-little, daily discipline of reading, meditating in, and studying the Bible, the Word of God. For the Bible contains the message of God’s grace in the life, death, resurrection, reign, and imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Your Personal Mission Field comes to you as a barren waste – dry, unfruitful, and awaiting irrigation and cultivation. To make of this an oasis and a fruitful field, abounding in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, you will need to pour into it daily of the grace of God, drip by drip, draught by draught, seed by seed. But this will only be possible as you drink daily from the Word of God, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.
1. What is your vision and plan for showing Jesus to the people in your Personal Mission Field?
2. How would you improve your daily time in the Scriptures? What can you do to get to more of God’s Word? What can you do to go more deeply into it?
3. Where do you need to improve in learning Jesus and leading others to Him?
Next steps – Preparation: Review and revise your personal plan for knowing and showing Jesus.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 2 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 2, “Small Beginnings.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.