Disciple-making Before the Birth of Jesus

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History fascinates me. And, I’m particularly fascinated with not just learning about what has happened, but in learning about how it came about, learning about why it happened. Adolf Hitler is a prime example. (Show pic of his art)Hitler was a failing artist. Ironically, his art was a bit of a window into what was to come. He didn’t necessarily paint anything evil. It’s that he couldn’t capture emotion, and great art is necessarily emotive. In retrospect, we recognize that he was a sociopath who empathic abilities were warped, rendering him incapable of healthy emotion.
So, how does a failing artist become a dictator capable of radicalizing millions of people to support his evil agenda? Those are the questions that I love to take to history. In this way, history has something to teach us about where we’ve been and how we’ve arrived where we are. And, by better understanding where came from, we can have a better understanding of where we’re going. By seeing the fuller picture that history gives you, you can better understand your role in it.

D-Making Before Jesus

That’s the idea behind this breakout. When most of us think of discipleship, disciple-making, and disciples, we immediately go to the gospels and to Jesus. If we were to move it up a bit, we might go to John the Baptist and his disciples. But, what’s important for us to realize is that both John the Baptist and Christ himself were building upon a method of instruction that was already well established. And, by seeing this bigger picture of historical disciple-making in the life of God’s people, we can understand more clearly what Jesus’ understanding of discipleship was and what our role is in it today. So, we’re going to do a bit of a flyover of the Old Testament. Part of my life’s work is to show that the Old Testament is just as relevant and Gospel-rich for us today as the New Testament is. And, that’s good news. After all, the OT makes up 2/3 of your Bible, and it’s loaded with stories, which is the best way for many of us to learn. So, we’re going to look at the four main categories of Scripture (Law/history/wisdom/prophets) to see how discipleship evolved over time. (Please forgive that this breakout is more lecture heavy than the others likely will be)

A Pattern in the Biblical Progression of Disciple-making: (Headline)

Purpose: Disciple-making is God’s method to “pass on” his promises and “prosper” his people.

Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.””
The beginning of disciple-making can be traced at least to the beginning of Israel.
This verse creates prototype of disciple-making that helps is understand God’s method of working throughout the rest of the Bible and today.
Disciple-making is “started” and “sustained” by grace.
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.””
Abraham receives by grace the promise of God.
Through Abraham, God is going to bring about a nation so great that it will bless every nation.
From the beginning, God’s goodness to him was to translate to God’s goodness through him.
In the original DNA of God’s people is grace received that becomes grace invested.
God’s promise is for our enjoyment, and God’s promise is for our investment.
MULTIPLY: “Blessing all nations” = “Make disciples of all nations.”
Isaac and Jacob show us how grace sustains disciple-making.
They become sons of promise; those through whom the promise passes to the next generation.
Their lives ebb and flow with fallenness and faithfulness.
The hope of the promise is ultimately sustained by God’s gracious intervention in their lives.
Isaac = the sacrifical ram
Jacob = wrestles with the Angel of the Lord
We have a responsibility to carry forward the promise faithfully. We have the confidence that God is the one who ultimately sustains us by his grace.
Grace doesn’t contradict responsibility. It empowers it.
Discipleship is not moving on from the grace received. It’s moving deeper into it.
Disciple-making is a “responsibility” for the “future.”
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.””
God instructs Abraham from the beginning to take responsibility for ensuring the next generation gets to enjoy the fullness of his promise.
The prototype of disciple-making is a father who walks with God teaching his children to walk with God that all of his descendents might walk with God.
Original Definition of D-making: Making sure the next generation knows the promise of God that they might enjoy the presence of God.
“Enjoying the presence of God” = “Prosperity” as I understand it.
You are God’s method of prospering the next generation in the enjoyment of God.
Concluding Story: Last Sunday, we honored a man named Donald Edwards.
47 years ago, he started the first student and children’s ministry at Iron City.
He became a mentor to the core group of believers that God used to save and disciple me in that same student ministry.

Focus: Disciple-making is God’s method to “equip” each generation to “love” him and “lead” others.

As the storyline of Scripture progresses beyond the patriarchs and into the Exodus, the scope and focus of disciple-making progresses with it.
They’re not just a family of a few a people. They’re a nation closer to two million people. (600,000 men alone)
The promise is coming to bear!
As the nation of Israel expands, the need for disciple-making expands. There’s greater complexity and need for a nation than just a family.
Two primary arenas of disciple-making emerge:
The “family” is disciple-making’s “starting line.”
In the Old Covenant, the nation and the faith community are consolidated as a single institution.
Neither of them displace the role of the family as ground zero of disciple-making.
Notice the progression:
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.””
Exodus 12:24-27 “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.”
Joshua 4:1-7 “When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’ ” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 ““Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
What’s the purpose of the book of Deuteronomy? It’s to enable them to flourish in the Promised Land by faith in God’s promise where their fathers had failed in unbelief.
Original Definition of D-making carried forward: Making sure the next generation knows the promise of God that they might enjoy the presence of God.
Where’s the primary arena this takes place? In the home! It’s the starting line of all disciple-making.
The “faith community” is disciple-making’s “accelerant.”
With the expansion of the family into a nation, a greater need for leaders begins to emerge.
They needed to leaders who knew God that could wisely lead them closer to him.
What emerges is a picture of how the faith community partners with the family to create well-rounded, well-equipped disciples.
The faith community builds upon the foundation laid by the family to equip one another to effectively serve out the call of God.
So, there’s a dual responsibility: 1) to pass down a robust personal faith. 2) And, to pass down a thriving community of faith.
Moses and Jethro:
Exodus 18:18-23 “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.””
Jethro trains Moses that he might be more effective in his leadership of God’s people.
Moses and Joshua:
Exodus 33:11 “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
Deuteronomy 34:9 “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
Moses was committed to teaching Joshua, and Joshua was committed to learning from Moses.
The result: There was no void in leadership for the people of God. Joshua became a man of robust faith who could wisely lead God’s people to enjoy the Promised Land.
Joshua would’ve learned to know and love God at home. He learned greater usefulness for God within the faith community.
Eli and Samuel:
1 Samuel 1:26-28 “And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.”
A beautiful relationship between the home and the faith community.
Hannah passes on her robust faith to Samuel.
Eli equips Samuel for great use in the work of God.
Elijah and Elisha:
1 Kings 19:19-21 “So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”
The School of Prophets:
1 Samuel 19:20 “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.”
2 Kings 2:1-7 “Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to th…”
There is even a place in which formal training is right and good in the acceleration of one’s faith and usefulness.
Concluding Story: The OT helps us to see that from the earliest days of his people God meant for the home and faith community to work in concert with one another.
Neither displaces the other. We might think of it as the way a house is built.
The home is primary in establishing the foundation of the faith.
The community of faith is like the framing that helps that faith take shape and reach its fullest potential.
We must not swing the pendulum too far either way.

Effect: Disciple-making is God’s method to “enable” his people to “flourish” in his “design.”

The original definition we gave was that disciple-making is God’s method to pass on his promises and PROSPER HIS PEOPLE.
When we come into the era of the David and Solomon, God’s people are flourishing.
Prosperity = enjoying the presence of God.
This should be the effect of sound disciple-making: enjoying the presence of God in spite of the brokenness of this world in light of the new world that is to come.
The kings and wisdom literature helps bring into view the pathway of effective disciple-making:
Effective disciple-makers “reckon” with life’s “complexity.”
Disciple-making is training each generation how to cope with what they experience and how to trust God in the midst of it.
This has been a crucial aspect of how effective disciple-making has happening for millennia among God’s people.
Life is filled with inexplicable suffering.
Life is messier than our systems of theology.
Who we know is trustworthy in spite of what we see.
David wrote both:
Psalm 21:1-2 “O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah”
Psalm 22:1-2 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”
Life is filled with both ups and downs.
God is sovereign over them all.
Life often feels like chasing after the wind.
The world is filled with disorder and life culminates in death.
The greatest are buried in the same dirt as the least.
Meaning can only be found in life by faith.
David’s Deathbed:
1 Kings 2:1-12 “When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ “Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act the…”
We have to take responsibility to prepare the next generation to not only cope, but to thrive in the face of hardship.
We have to train them to flourish without us and to carry on the work that was begun before us.
David does just that with Solomon.
In 2016, a young couple in my church experienced the stillbirth of their health, full-term baby.
We need our deepest theology in the midst of our hardest suffering.
Effective disciple-making isn’t making it through a book.
Effective disciple-making equipping others to understand how the deepest theology sustains them through the darkest seasons.
Effective disciple-makers “teach” God’s “design.”
Proverbs was written for a primary audience of young men and young royals.
It was intended to prepare them to understand how God designed the world and how they might be able to flourish within his design.
It’s a balance of Ecclesiastes.
Proverbs teaches that there is a cause/effect in life. You reap what you sow.
Ecclesiastes teaches that there are exceptions to the proverbs. Sometimes, you reap what you haven’t sown.
For a person to flourish, there is a profound need for both.
Effective disciple-making teaches that we can’t live like every exception is the rule.
Effective disciple-making teaches that we can’t live like there are no exceptions.
Effective disciple-making is also individualized to its intended audience and must be taught creatively.
Disciple-making is not one-size-fits-all.
Solomon uses fanciful stories about adulterers and talks about the types of women one should pursue and avoid. (Dead on target for his audience.)
The Proverbs don’t just say the truth. They say it well. They say it memorably. They say it creatively.
Concluding Story: Bray had a lot to cope with and a lot to learn.
His life had been impossibly hard, and he need to process it.
He had no background in faith or even an idea on how to address envelopes. He didn’t understand how the world worked.
Today is he is an effective minister of the gospel.
D-making enables us to be a part of stories just like this.

Mission: Disciple-making is God’s method to “entrust” his “mission” to the next “generation.”

The major and minor prophets had the responsibility to disciple people who really weren’t very interested in the discipleship.
Some of them were speaking to prosperous people who loved their idols.
Some of them were speaking to defeated people who lived among ruins.
The difficulty of their ministry did not negate their responsibility to make disciples.
They have a lot to teach us about disciple-making as we live in the shadows of Babylon ourselves.
Disciple-makers must “defend” the Gospel “boldly.”
The prophets preached a “Now and Later” message.
Judgment now and deliverance later.
Really unpopular and difficult message for the current generation.
Disciple-makers have to train others to be accountable.
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Hosea spoke boldly about their spiritual harlotry.
He called them back to know God as He truly is.
The prophets remind us of our need for accountability and of our responsibility to teach the truth about God.
Disciple-makers have to teach the truth unflinchingly.
The people of God were indistinguishable from the neighboring countries. They were supposed to know God but looked exactly like those who didn’t.
They tricked themselves with religious activity.
The prophets remind us that we easily deceive ourselves and need one another to tell us the truth.
Disciple-makers must “pass on” the Gospel “faithfully.”
The people of God are prone to sell out the truth of God for a few pieces of silver.
The “prophets” were selling out to the highest bidder.
They would tell you what you wanted to hear so they could get what they wanted to have.
These are not actual prophets. They don’t actually help.
Only the truth actually offers hope. Only the true Gospel is actually Good News.
Disciple-makers must pass on the true Gospel.
Isaiah 8:13-18 “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
We have to be willing to stand on the “stone of offense.”
This is hard, but this is the hope.
There’s a reason that not many make disciples. It’s hard. It’s offensive. It’s grueling.
Disciple-makers must live for another life.
Isaiah 11 (wolf/lamb, leopard/goat, calf/lion, child/adder)
Zechariah 10-14 (“that day”)
Jeremiah 31 (mourning —> joy, New Covenant to Secure)
The fuel of disciple-making is the grace of eternal life. We can take up our cross now because we will enjoy the fruits of the resurrection.
Concluding Story: The Forgotten Zerubabbel
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah hold up the post-exilic king, Zerubabbel as a conduit of the Promise.
Haggai 1:20-23 = he is the “signet ring” who will reestablish the promise (“Son of David”)
Zechariah 4 = He is the King who will build the Temple by the Spirit.
But, he builds a temple that crumbles and rules a nation in shambles.
Most of us have forgotten him, and he didn’t amount to much in comparison to other nations.
Matthew 1:12-13 “And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,”
He became a forgotten conduit of the promise that the generation to come might prosper in God.
That’s the goal here: Make disciples. Be forgotten. Get glory.
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