Pastor Davis challenged us on Sunday to live a life worth replicating in active up(ward), across(lateral), and down(ward) discipleship relationships. My aim through this post is to provide you with a list of qualities and understandings of faith one should filter through potential or existing discipleship relationships to help gauge their knowledge, wisdom, and maturity presently.  Through this vetting we can guard ourselves from false teachers and gain confidence in submitting ourselves to vulnerable, honest, and Spirit-led relationships.

Discipleship relationships can “feel” really awkward at first.  Our original fallen nature prefers isolation to relationship.  As an everyday example of this, we are the only creature that seeks out garments to cover our nakedness.  Why is this?  Is it because we are so sanitary?  COVID-19 would like to have a word with you.  Is it because we are always cold?  I’m pretty sure the number of hours your air conditioner has been used in your vehicle’s life would suggest that statement false.  I would suggest from a reading of Genesis that we seek out garments for our nakedness because of shame.  

The covering of our nakedness represents our fallen preference for being hidden in isolation due to shame over the exposure required for true, deep, loving relationship with a Holy God.  We like to put on masks of persona pretending we are something better than we are, covering our sin and brokenness with worthless works righteousness and “wokeness” to prove morality is on our side.  And in that, we lie to ourselves about the depths of our depravity and, by definition, we also necessarily end up lowering our view of God’s Holiness. All of that is to say that we are not naturally programmed to engage in discipleship well.  And yet, Church, discipleship is exactly what we are called to.  The Great Commission calls us to baptize, teach, and build up others in the ways of Christ.  Praise God for the gift of the Spirit and the authority of His Word to enable these relationships to be fruitful and to ultimately multiply.  

So, let’s walk through some qualities and understandings of faith a mature Christian will possess.  Let these build confidence in you to become willing to engage in the initial uncomfortable state of discipleship with another brother/sister in Christ.  This is not an exhaustive list.

Maturity in discipleship relationships should be defined by:

Humility in one’s own fallenness.

(Romans 7:24, 2 Corinthians 12:9)

A mature Christian will be deeply aware of his/her own sinfulness.  He/she will understand their inability to reconcile back to God on their own or in any way other than Jesus, the Christ.  The more aware of our own depravity we are, the more ability we have to truly understand the Holiness of God.

Love of God and neighbor.

(Mark 12:28-34)

As discussed in the post on “The Indispensables,” love of God and love of neighbor are necessary, foundational prerequisites to Reaching and Discipling.  They are fulfilled for us in and through Christ Jesus and He is the cornerstone of our faith.  If He is in us through the Spirit, love of God and love of neighbor will be present and active.

Authority of scripture and commitment to apostolic teaching.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 10:35, Matthew 10:40, John 17:20-21, Acts 2:42, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:6)

A mature Christian ready to fruitfully disciple will submit and test all things through scripture.  They will also understand that the full foundation laid on Christ as cornerstone is the apostles and the prophets.  Heresy often begins to combat the true Church by first attacking the apostles or the prophets.  Mature Christians will defend the apostles and the prophets with the same veracity that they would defend Christ himself, for they were acting on behalf of God himself.  We cannot twist “Christ alone” in such a way as to divorce Him from the prophets and the apostles.  Thus, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not of more or less importance than any other book of Scripture.  ALL have a place and ALL should be defended wholehearted whenever and wherever attacked.

A love for the Church: locally, universally, historically.

(1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:19-22, 3:14-21)

Knowing how and why the church found a need to declare a Canon, declare the Trinity, declare a truly God/truly man Jesus, declare a duality of man while rejecting dualism of body and soul…  a mature Christian should be able to scripturally walk through the evidence for these conclusions but also realize and appreciate that while these are seen as “basics” of Christian understanding, they are only basic because of the Spirit’s longitudinal work through the Church.  These are extraordinarily deep and complex theological issues and without understanding the history, we easily open up ourselves to be vulnerable to the same heresies of the past.  

Christ restores and renews everything.  The Christian life is not about divorcing reason from faith, body from mind, history from scripture.  It is about surrendering more and more to Christ for restoration and renewal in every aspect of our lives.  The Breath (Spirit) of God (Father) through His Word (Christ) created everything.  And now for those in Christ Jesus, the work of recreating/bringing new life has begun again.  A life without sin.  A life without blemish.  A life more abundant and at a level of eternity.  A life He will see to completion when our King returns (Philippians 1:6).

Being sober-minded.

(2 Timothy 4:5)

This primarily means to have consistency of focus in preaching the Gospel with purity.  To be firmly planted in faith and truth and to not get distracted or double-minded.

Enduring suffering.

(2 Timothy 4:5)

Cessation of trouble or pain is never promised in the Christian walk.  In fact, Jesus assures us there will be trials (John 16:33), but a maturing Christian should be able to “take heart, for I (Christ) have overcome the world.”  A true disciple of Christ will have a faith that rejects the prosperity gospel.  The mature Christian will have peace and assurance through the trials that do come precisely because earthly prosperity is not a sign of true faith. The promises of scripture having proven God faithful throughout the history of His people demands a courageous faith unshaken by earthy turmoil.

May these six qualities of maturity challenge you to deeper relationship with God and the Church through the call to relational winning over evidenced by baptism, teaching, and the building up in the ways of Christ.  Discipleship is not optional, Church.  It is a commission.  It is our charge and our duty.  So let’s get to work being equipped and equipping others for the Glory of God.  Amen!