Intentional Discipleship

Core Values  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:14
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Main Idea

Discipleship is the collective pursuit of growth toward Christlikeness.
Have you ever heard of Companion Planting? I haven’t either. According to Madison Fields (an agricultural resource center):
“Planting a garden that utilizes the strengths of each plant to form a healthy plant community is called Companion Planting, and it is an effective and sustainable way to grow a thriving garden. Within these plant communities, each plant plays a special role in improving the overall well-being of the neighborhood. For example, one plant might add nutrients into the soil, another might draw helpful insects into the area, and another might ward off pests.
Native Americans applied this knowledge in the planting of their three main crops called the “Three Sisters”— corn, beans, and squash. The beans find support as they grow up the corn stalks. In return, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, feeding the corn. The broad leaves of the fast-growing squash shade out weeds that would otherwise compete for limited nutrients. The three support each other.”
[excerpt taken from an article on companion planting written by Maddison Fields-]
This is a perfect metaphor for discipleship for a number of reasons, all of which I will unpack for you today.

Outline and Passage

I - Definition
II - Characteristics
III - Benefits
IV - Costs
V - Application
Colossians 1:28 ESV
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.


What is discipleship? We use that word a lot, but what does it really mean? Let’s take a look:
Dictionary of Bible Themes 8114 discipleship


The process of becoming a committed follower of Jesus Christ, with all the spiritual discipline and benefits which this brings.

First, this lists discipleship as a process and progression
Secondly, it describes a commitment (you don’t begin as a pro. Michael Phelps trained 6 hours a day for the Olympics!)
Thirdly, it identifies to whom we are committing to
Fourthly, it shows that there are benefits and requirements
At its basic level, we could sum discipleship as the answer to Jesus’ call to “Follow me.
But, we could build on that just a little. Jesus also said:
Luke 6:40 ESV
40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
So then, we also see scripturally that it is the process and commitment to become like Jesus, which will require something of us, but will also result in fruitful outcomes.


That definition is helpful, but it still falls flat in one key area. How? Because it leaves out one crucial element: community. Not only are we committed to a process of growth to make us like our Master, but we don’t do it in isolation. We are like the co-dependent plants in the companion planting garden. We really should define it as the collective pursuit of growth toward Christlikeness. And that growth has certain characteristics, which we will talk about next.

It’s Collaborative

The first thing I want to point out about this process is how it isn’t done in isolation. The one thing discipleship isn’t is an individual venture. And, if we are going to understand any principles about discipleship, we don’t need to look any further than the Gospel accounts of how Jesus interacted with His disciples.
For me to give you an illustration about anyone else would be an inferior illustration. Jesus is our prime example.
Jesus lived with his disciples for over three years. They spent every waking hour with one another, except for the times when Jesus withdrew from them to pray (or take a midnight stroll on the sea). He taught them indirectly when he allowed them to witness His interactions with the Pharisees. He taught them directly by explaining the parables. He taught them by pointing out events happening during the day, like the widow and her tithe of two coins. He showed them how to pray. Literally everything Jesus did or said was a way to help the twelve grow in their faith and knowledge of God.
And when he sent his disciples out on mission, it was never in isolation. He would send them out in pairs. Why? Because, as King Solomon puts it:
Proverbs 27:17 NASB95
17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.
So, the culture of discipleship was shared living and learning from Jesus with one another. That is point #1.
We can all have our own individual times in devotional reading and prayer, but discipleship, by its very nature, is done with others. According to Solomon, t takes two pieces of iron to accomplish the act of sharpening.

It’s Multi-directional Growth

Like the definition described, discipleship is a process of growing in Christlikeness, and scripture paints that picture with many different metaphors, many of which show how we grow directionally.


Seed to Tree
Mark 4:31–32 ESV
31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”


Ephesians 3:17 ESV
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
So, with the agricultural metaphors, we see clearly how discipleship is slow, intentional growth over time that strengthens and matures the person. It is an upward growth in stature, and a downward growth in stabilization, being able to withstand the storms that come your way.


In knowledge, faith, love, and thought
2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
Philippians 1:9–10 ESV
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
Away from sin and toward godliness
Galatians 5:24 ESV
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
In keeping with the agricultural theme, you could view this as the live-giving sap that flows through the vine into the branches, and is actually something we will look at closer in just a few minutes.
All of these characteristics are internal. They are the growth of our character, our faith, our stature, our morality, and our wisdom. Discipleship allows us to mature in these areas and become seasoned. We grow in Christlikeness as we expand our knowledge of who God is, as we love as He loves us, and in how we exercise our faith through daily trust in His provision and protection. But, instead of seeing this as an individual plant, I want to encourage you as seeing this as a garden where all of the plants are working together to encourage these types of growth.


Tree bearing fruit
Matthew 7:17–19 ESV
17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
We don’t just grow in one way. Spiritual maturity is multi-faceted and God has explained just how dynamic it can be. Just like worship isn’t just about singing 4-5 songs on a Sunday morning, so discipleship isn’t just about reading your Bible. Reading the Bible is an essential part of growing and maturing, but growth doesn’t come from just reading the Bible.
Many of you have asked about doing a series on how to grow as a Christian, or how to live godly lives. I love that these are the questions you have and there will be times when we address this, but let me encourage you that these Core Values are how we live godly lives. These are the pillars of Christian living here at Ashe Alliance Church and are the lenses through which we view the world and interact within it.
Scripture is our ultimate authority. If we want to understand a particular worldview, we must go to scripture first for our answers.
Serving through your gifts is a key element to your spiritual growth. If you aren’t serving, you aren’t growing, and the body isn’t functioning as a whole.
Building relationships with unbelievers is a command from our King and a way in which you display God’s love, grace, and compassion in your own life.
Being generous as a Steward of God’s things and giving with a joyful heart is a hallmark of Christian living. We give because God gave and God loves a cheerful giver.
Worship is a lifestyle that we engage in daily.
Prayer should be infused into every decision we make and action we take.
And discipleship is God’s blueprint for Christian growth, being crafted and molded into the image of Christ.
If any one of these foundational elements is missing from your life, then your growth as a Christian is lopsided. That is why they are foundational! So, as we focus on Discipleship today, know that it is one of 7 multi-dimensional ways that we live out our faith and grow together as Christ-followers.

It’s with One Another

I also mentioned this concept when we discussed the core value of Gifted Service. There are over 40 instances in scripture, where we are commanded to do something for or with one another. Here are a few examples:
Love one another (Jn 13:34)
Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
Be devoted to one another (Ro 12:10)
Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
Forgive one another (Ep 4:32)
Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)
I encourage you to go home this week and put on your detective hat. Research these One Anothers. I promise you that if you take this assignment seriously, it will fundamentally reshape the way you live in community with other believers. If we dedicate ourselves to living out these commands, it will transform our fellowship here at this church.
How? Because this is the detailed version of how iron sharpens iron. It’s how we grow together in Christlikeness. This is how Christian community is made and how it thrives. This is how God is glorified through His people. Living out the One Anothers of scripture is discipleship.


Following Jesus and doing the work to become like him comes with many benefits to the believer. How? Because it is God who is at work in the lives of His followers and it will always ultimately result in His glory and their good. Some of these benefits are in the life to come, such as eternal life in His presence and citizenship in the eternal Kingdom, but scripture also describes many benefits in this life now.


John 15 describes Jesus as being the true vine and the Father as the vinedresser. There is fruit when the branch is tended to and pruned, and where there is no fruit, the branch is removed and burned. The initial exhortation is for you to remain in the vine so that the life-giving nourishment of the sap freely flows to and through you (the branch). But, there is a secondary exhortation found in verses 10-11, which says:
John 15:10–11 ESV
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
We just read about Joy for Advent this morning. There is good news and great Joy in the coming of Jesus as a baby in a little manger. How much more joy should we experience as we abide; as we walk together with Him daily and eagerly await the glory of His second coming!


John 14:27 ESV
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and if our lives are a reflection of His, we should have peace. We have it because He gives it, and we have it because of the rest we have in Him.
Is there evidence of joy and peace in your life, or are you letting the onslaught of news and instant information rob you of that? Some plants give off an aroma (like herbs). Are you exuding joy and peace as the fragrance of your relationship with Christ?

Happiness & Fulfillment

Matthew 5:3–12 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Every time, there is a provision of a need for an entire people group. If you mourn, you will be comforted… if you hunger, you will be satisfied. When you realized just how blessed you are, you will experience true happiness and fulfillment… not from the temporal things this world has to offer or any particular circumstance of life, but from the God who created you and knows exactly what you need.


Just like the moral characteristic described, living out our commitment to becoming like Jesus will cost us.
It will come with an active rejection of self-interest and fleshly desires.
Sometimes professing Christ will cost us relationships. (If you are a Muslim who embraces Christianity, for example, you can be disowned by your family.)
We will sacrifice time as we walk through dark times with other believers as share in their burdens
In all these things, we are called to put Christ first, to willfully sacrifice, and to put sinful things to death, even to the point of death.
Matthew 10:37–39 ESV
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In his book Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns his readers about Cheap Grace, saying, “Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit.”
His point was to refute the idea that we can live under God’s unmerited favor without it costing us anything. Yes, we were saved by grace alone through faith alone, by Christ alone, but if we become spiritual gluttons - only receiving and never sacrificing - then we aren’t living truthful lives. You are trying to cash out on all the benefits without any of the sacrifice, by receiving the gift of God’s grace and then living however you want to… and to the outside world, you look no different than an unbeliever.
He goes on to explain how grace is actually quite costly, saying, “It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin, it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son - ‘You were bought with a price’ - and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly go God.”
When Jesus came to die for our transgression, He gave nothing less than His own life. How could we give Him anything less?
If you truly follow Jesus, it will cost you. That is a key understanding of discipleship. We will lose parts of ourselves in this venture, but we lose the unhealthy, the unfruitful, and the decaying parts of us. We may loose relationships. We may loose careers, social standing, livelihoods, and even our very lives. But gaining Christ is worth every sacrifice.


1-on-1 relationships (accountability)
Iron sharpens iron. You will do much better in your pursuit of holiness to know that you will have to answer to someone… that significant person in your life that you can confide in and ask to keep you on track.
All discipleship should start in the home. Husbands, if you don’t have any kids, then your focus should be on your wife. Parents, your kids should be your top priority. Don’t just look to the church and the professional Christians (paid staff) to disciple your kids. You are the main Discipler in your household.
Life Groups
These are the main vehicles for discipleship at Ashe Alliance. Sure, you can serve on Sunday mornings, but the rubber will hit the road when you live life with a handful of other people and use your gifts to serve them well!
Gender-specific Gatherings (Men’s & Women’s Bible Study)
There is just something special about men getting together to study God’s word with other men and women with other women. The discussion is completely different because you can address gender-specific issues that are uncomfortable or even inappropriate to discuss in a mixed group, and odds are, 99% of the men or women in that room have dealt with the same things you are trying to address.
Age-specific Gatherings (Children & Youth)
Biblical teachings and life lessons sink in when they can be applied in a way that connects with a particular stage of life or level of understanding. A 10-year-old thinks a certain way and much differently than an 18-year-old. They are experiencing different social dynamics and encountering vastly different cultural nuances. We want to talk about Jesus to a 5-year-old in a way they can understand. Speaking that way to a 20-year-old will be insulting. You get the picture.
Needs-based Gatherings (ESL, Adoption, etc.)
Finally, we can help each other grow in Christlikeness based on needs. We connect with non-English speakers in a very specific way. The same goes for how we talk to people who have come out of Adoption Agencies or those in Addiction programs. Each one of those has its own nuances and parts of scripture that will be most beneficial for spiritual growth in their stage of life.
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